During the National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency’s inaugural trip, Coordinator-General Shane Stone and Agency staff drove across the Northern Territory into Queensland to view the impact of drought and flood and explore ways in which Government at all levels can work collaboratively with rural communities.
As the team made their way through Queensland, it became clear that for many Shires, supporting small businesses and the local workforce is a priority for building drought resilience in the wider community.
The group spoke with Boulia Shire Council Mayor Rick Britton and his CEO Lynn Moore about their proposal to develop the Donohue Highway and to fund infrastructure projects that will generate jobs and long-term returns in the community.
Winton Shire Mayor Gavin Baskett and Councillor Tina Elliott then updated Shane and his team on how they will spend their $1 million Drought Communities Programme funding to bolster small businesses, activate a Drought Committee, and make money available for different community groups.
“In Winton, we also continued our conversation about the North Queensland communities hit by the flood event earlier in the year as part of our ongoing commitment to working with farmers, businesses and communities as they recover.”
“We’re very serious about initiatives that are locally led, locally understood and locally implemented,” Mr Stone said.
In Longreach, Queensland Drought Commissioner Vaughan Johnson highlighted opportunities for all levels of government to work together to deliver water security and exclusion fencing projects that he believes will benefit rural properties as well as the tradespeople and shops in town.
The team also met with Barcaldine Regional Council Mayor Rob Chandler, Deputy Mayor Jenni Gray and Councillor Sean Dillon to discuss the importance of coordinating assistance, and mapping out a role for charities and not-for-profits in supporting drought-affected businesses and families.
In Central West Queensland, the group saw first-hand the devastating impact of wild dogs. Shane and his team visited Peter and Roberta Doneley at Dunraven Station in Barcaldine Shire. The Doneleys say they haven’t had a good lambing season in eight years. Two years ago, they experienced the heartbreaking loss of 2000 lambs to wild dogs in just two weeks. Since then, Peter and Roberta, along with their son Paul, daughter Alice and son-in-law James Bourne, have been putting cluster fencing around their property to protect their merinos.
Deputy Mayor of Blackall-Tambo Lindsay Russell and his wife Gill at Mt Macquarie Station are also seeing the benefits of barrier and cluster fencing to combat the impacts of wild dogs. The Russells run 5000 goats as well as cattle on their property, with the goats performing well in drought conditions. Their cluster fencing has made a big difference during the past year, and will assist to protect stock when numbers start to rebuild.
Back in Longreach, the travellers met with Queensland Agriculture Flood Recovery Coordinator David Phelps, and Longreach Council representatives, Mayor Ed Warren, Economic Development Officer Simon Kuttner, Disaster Management Coordinator Craig Neuendorf, and Local Laws Rural Lands Supervisor Jeff Newton.
Together they visited graziers Duncan Emmott from Whitehill Station and Richard Kinnon from Nogo Station to see how funding for infrastructure like exclusion fencing is providing an ongoing benefit to farmers who will be able to restock as their pastures regenerate without interference from kangaroos, pigs and wild dogs.
And so, after ten days driving over 5000 km through two states, visiting 11 properties and seven mayors and deputy mayors, the Agency’s first big road trip is done and dusted!
Thank you to all the families and councillors who made the time to share their local insights and plans for long-term drought and flood recovery. Primary producers and people in rural and regional communities have a deep understanding of what works for their businesses and towns. It is the Agency’s job to ensure that all levels of government collaborate with rural communities – all working together to ease the burden for people living through these difficult times.
Merry Christmas and have a safe and happy New Year! See you on the ground again soon.