The National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency (The Agency) held its inaugural Board meeting on 28 January 2020 in Orange, NSW.
The Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP attended the meeting, along with the Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management the Hon David Littleproud MP, and the Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan MP.
The Prime Minister noted that this was the first time the Board had formally convened since the Agency remit was expanded on 5 December 2019 to include drought.
He acknowledged the work of the Agency over the past 12 months and reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to rural and regional Australians suffering through the relentlessness of the national drought, and North Queensland communities recovering and rebuilding after the widespread flood event of early 2019.
The meeting presented an opportunity for Coordinator-General for Drought and Flood and Board Chairman, the Hon Shane Stone AC QC, to formally welcome five new Board members and reflect on the Agency’s success in engaging with North Queensland communities, which led to its expanded remit. He also acknowledged that the Agency’s guiding principle of “locally led, locally understood and locally implemented” solutions which best benefit local communities, would be modelled by the newly-formed National Bushfire Recovery Agency.
The Coordinator-General briefed Board members on the recent Agency community engagement activities undertaken through drought-hit Northern Territory, Southern Queensland and Northern NSW regions and the lessons learned from the 2019 floods, which would inform the response to the national drought.
The Board was also updated on the more than $3.3 billion in support measures the Australian Government has made available to assist individuals, businesses, communities and non-government organisations impacted by the North Queensland flood event and the support measures in place for farmers and communities experiencing drought.
Guest speaker Mr Bruce King, CEO of the Regional Investment Corporation, provided an update on the loans available for drought and flood-affected farmers and the new AgBiz Drought Loan for small businesses.
The Board considered several potential new drought assistance measures for further consideration by the Australian Government.
The Board approved its updated terms of reference and acknowledged the close working relationships the Agency has established across all layers of government and with major stakeholders.
These relationships have been key to understanding and responding to the substantial impacts the drought and flood have had on the health and well-being of rural and regional communities, businesses, industry, environment and way of life.
The Board was updated on the long-term strategy for the recovery and reconstruction of flood affected areas in North Queensland and the strategic priorities identified to direct and prioritise efforts and investment in affected areas.
The Board agreed it would meet every 2 months (6 meetings a year) in addition to regular telephone conferences, and will also meet otherwise as required.
- The Hon Shane L Stone AC QC (Chair) – Coordinator-General National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency
- Ms Tracey Hayes - Former CEO of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association and board member of the CRC for Developing Northern Australia
- Mr David Galvin - Former Chair of LiveCorp
- Mr Don Heatley OAM - Former Chair of Meat and Livestock Australia and farmer
- Cr Greg Campbell - Mayor of Cloncurry Shire Council and farmer
- The Hon Simon Crean – (NEW) Chairman of the Australian Livestock Exporters Council and board member of the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, former Member of Parliament
- The Hon Fiona Nash – (NEW) Strategic Adviser - Regional Engagement for Charles Sturt University, Former Senator for NSW
- The Hon Bill Heffernan – (NEW) Farmer, Junee NSW, Former President of the Junee Shire Council and Former Senator for NSW
- Ms Fiona Simson – (NEW) President, National Farmers Federation and farmer
- Dr Wendy Craik AM – (NEW) Member of the Future Drought Fund Consultative Committee, Chair of the Climate Change Authority, Director of the Australian Farm Institute
- Apologies were received from Mr Daryl Quinlivan, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture