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No drought tag reprieve

NO CHANGE: The State Government is not backing down when it comes to altering the region's drought status.
NO CHANGE: The State Government is not backing down when it comes to altering the region's drought status. Contributed

THE Southern Downs' drought status will remain unchanged after the Queensland Government rebuffed council's desire to once again be drought declared.

In September, Southern Downs Regional Council voted to write to the Minister for Agriculture Bill Byrne requesting the region have the drought affected tag reinstated.

"Councillors have received feedback from local landholders that their properties are struggling,” a council spokesperson said at the time.

A response to their letter was received and tabled at the November 22 meeting.

In it, Acting Minister for Agriculture Dr Anthony Lynham suggested the matter be monitored until after summer.

"Drought declarations and revocations for local government areas across Queensland are made by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries on the recommendation of Local Drought Committees (LDCs),” Dr Lynham said.

He said the decision to repeal the drought status was based on advice from the Southern Downs' LDC.

"As well as rainfall deficiency, LDCs consider a number of criteria including water availability, condition of livestock and pasture conditions.

"It would seem appropriate for the LDC to monitor the situation and formally meet when the outcome of the summer rainfall period is known,” Dr Lynham said.

The issue continues to be pushed by Cr Rod Kelly, who believes the drought status was lifted prematurely.

He isn't accepting the acting minister's determinations and, with unanimous support from other councillors, has requested the council contact the incoming Ministry and has sought to see the status be "reinstated immediately pending the next review in March/April 2018”.

Cr Kelly also wants to see an SDRC representative on the LDC and see the criteria for determining drought status be reviewed to keep in line with current climate studies.

"I've looked at the averages of the rainfall across Stanthorpe and Warwick and we are below average, Stanthorpe particularly, is way below average,” he said.

"We are in a drought, I can show you some waterholes that are dry, there might be some feed around but there's lots of supplement going on and the purpose of the drought declaration is to help rural producers through these difficult times,” he said.

It was also agreed that the matter be raised as one of urgency at the next Darling Downs South West Queensland Council of Mayors meeting.

Stanthorpe Border Post

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