Recently, Agency CEO Shane Stone, Advisory Board members and Agency staff drove over 4,200kms through much of North and North West Queensland.
From council meeting rooms to roadhouses, stockyards to kitchen tables, chats on the sides of the road and in the coffee shops over a cuppa, people have been sharing their stories of resilience and strength as they get back on their feet following this year’s monsoon trough.
This trip was all about listening to what affected communities want for their future, including new ideas and new ways of doing things, and the focus on innovation throughout the region was evident. At Mt. Surprise Station in the Gulf Savannah, we met with grazier Matt McClymont, who is participating in an E-beef Smart Farming Partnership with the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group. This is a Commonwealth-funded project under the National Landcare Program.
Matt’s trialling a ‘walk-over-weigh’ system, which allows him to track the weight of his cattle using an app on his phone, and how their weight gain – or loss – relates to the condition of the pasture the cattle are grazing. The system is helping him to monitor the herd’s condition, and he’s using it to fine tune his grazing management strategy in order to lift productivity.
Then there was William Harrington at Richmond, whose Wi-Sky high speed internet service enabled people to keep communicating during the flood. He was able to keep an eye on conditions on his property with remote monitoring technology. William shared his views on how existing infrastructure can be leveraged to improve the connectivity of the entire North-West.
As well as overseeing the recovery, local government is turning its mind to a sustainable future. Both Richmond and Flinders Shire Councils presented to us their plans to harness water, make use of the rich and fertile soil and expand horticulture, all of which have the potential to reap significant regional benefits.
These sorts of innovations are part of the future of agriculture, and show that people are turning their minds to making the most of their natural resources for the economic and social benefit of not only North and North West Queensland, but the country as a whole.
Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, joined our CEO and Advisory Board members at Karumba to discuss the importance of water in the future economic success and resilience of the region. He also reflected on the Agency’s work supporting affected communities to recover from this natural disaster in a way that best meets their needs.
The Minister also joined the Agency on a visit to a property near Normanton that had suffered severe damage to pastures due to the floodwaters, as well as losing stock. The property owners are giving the pasture the time it needs to recover before it’s ready to support livestock again.
In Normanton we organised a ‘Regional Solutions’ discussion, bringing together representatives from all levels of government, as well as academics and researchers, to highlight the region’s huge potential and how we need to work together to enable recovery and promote future prosperity.
The roundtable was just one part of a continuing conversation we are having across government, industry and communities that will help inform the strategy for the longer-term recovery and resilience of the region. We’ve now spent considerable time in communities gathering input from the ground, and we’re in the process of consolidating what we’ve heard.
There is no shortage of ideas for how we can secure the future of North and North West Queensland – economic diversification, water security and responsible environmental management to name a few – but the challenge now is to turn those ideas into tangible actions we can all progress.
NQLIRA can’t do this job alone, and the trip really highlighted the importance of the relationships we have with local communities, and across industry and all levels of government. Working in partnership is at the core of everything the Agency does.
What we’ve seen and heard gives us a sound understanding and deep appreciation for what people went through and how they’re working hard to rebuild their livelihoods. The hundreds of people we’ve spoken to will inform a locally led, locally understood and locally implemented longer-term strategy for the region.