Mayor Tracy Dobie with Snowflakes in Stanthorpe president Brett Boatfield at the official opening on Friday.
Mayor Tracy Dobie with Snowflakes in Stanthorpe president Brett Boatfield at the official opening on Friday. Liana Turner

DAF: No drought, no worries

DISPUTE over the region's drought status has local government bumping heads with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, which said farmers didn't seem to want assistance.

DAF state climate risk co-ordinator Dave McCrae said there had been no applications for individual drought assistance from Southern Downs farmers since the region's drought status was revoked in May last year.

"I just think the fact there hasn't been any Individually Droughted Property (IDP) applications would suggest that the majority of primary producers are probably comfortable with season conditions today, keeping in mind there may be applications to come," he said.

But Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said all you had to do was look around at the dried out dams to see this part of the country was suffering.

A drought declaration would entitle farmers to government support, that they are unlikely to seek otherwise.

"No one has applied for an IDP because it is so difficult to go through all the hoops they need to go through," Cr Dobie said.

"Our farmers are proud. They don't like to ask for handouts."

After speaking with farmers, Cr Dobie said local primary producers treated the IDP scheme as a very last resort, and most would wait it out to see if the drought would be reinstated at the next Local Drought Committee meeting in April 2018.

But Cr Dobie was concerned Southern Downs farmers were missing out.

"They should be entitled to some support, particularly if that support is already being provided to other farmers in surrounding regions like Toowoomba," she said.


Droughtmaster cattle, Ulcanbah Station
Droughtmaster cattle, Ulcanbah Station Paula Heelan

Cr Dobie said a meeting with DAF representatives late last year provided unsatisfactory answers as to why the Southern Downs' drought status was lifted while surrounding regions remain drought declared.

The council's frustration mounts as Toowoomba declares one of its longest droughts in history.

"Just look at the contradiction in that," Cr Dobie said.

"Why isn't that being addressed by department?

"We have a climate that is constantly changing and they need to take into account what is actually happening."

Cr Dobie said she was opposed to the fact that the drought committee was only required to meet once a year as it left no room for revision if the committee made a mistake.

"When we asked the Department of Agriculture to reconsider the decision they were adamant it would not be possible and the local drought committee would not meet again until April 2018," Cr Dobie said.

But Mr McCrae said the power was in the hands of the Local Drought Committee, which is made up of primary producers and industry organisations.

"In my mind the drought committee process is really good because it is consumer driven," he said.

"They can call a meeting whenever they want."

Mr McCrae urged farmers in the region to take advantage of the IDP scheme if they were in need.

"Primary producers who believe they are affected by drought conditions can apply for assistance through the IDP scheme," he said.