'It was the wrong decision' says Colin Boyce
MEMBER for Callide Colin Boyce has thrown his support behind fellow LNP Member Ann Leahy as she calls for a reconvening of the local drought committee for the Western Downs area.
The Member for Warrego said she had been advised members of the local drought committee had expressed a desire to reconvene and reassess the decision to remove the Western Down Regional Council area's drought declaration, but had been denied the opportunity by the Department of Agriculture.
"I have written to the Minister asking for the Western Downs Regional Council local drought committee to be reconvened so the committee can reassess the drought conditions across the council area,” Ms Leahy said.
"The outlook from the Weather Bureau is not looking promising and the conditions are deteriorating across the region.
"Western Downs primary producers cannot wait until April 2019 for the drought committee to meet again.”
Callide MP Colin Boyce agreed with Ms Leahy, saying he'd been contacted by numerous concerned landholders.
"Everybody's wondering why we were taken off it in the first place, it was not the right decision to make at the time,” Mr Boyce said.
But Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner has stood by the decision.
"When making or revoking drought declarations, I consider the advice given to me by Local Drought Committees,” Mr Furner said.
"The LDC members freely give their time to serve their communities and must be able to perform assessments and make recommendations without being subject to lobbying.”
Mr Furner said the committee took into account whether the region was experiencing a once in 10-15 year rainfall deficiency, how useful the rain was, the condition of livestock, water availability and other factors including high temperatures.
But for Mr Boyce, the decision doesn't reflect the reality.
"Obviously we did have some temporary rain in the summer this year, just because it rains doesn't necessarily mean that's the end of the drought. Obviously western Queensland is in dire straits as far as the drought goes, as is New South Wales, southern Queensland,” he said.
Mr Furner said Western Downs farmers who were no longer drought-declared but still suffering could apply for a Droughted Property declaration, to access government support.
Ms Leahy urged affected producers to do so, but said she was concerned about the effect of extra processes in a stressful time for landholders.
"Had the Western Downs not been prematurely removed from the drought list by the State Government, landholders would not be burdened with this additional paperwork at an already difficult time,” Ms Leahy said.
"I am concerned that if we don't get Western Downs back on the list of drought declared shires the area may miss out on other funding streams that specifically target drought declared areas.”