Almost 80 per cent of Queensland is now officially drought declared after the state government extended the area considered drought-stricken.
Almost 80 per cent of Queensland is now officially declared to be in drought – the largest area in the state’s history.
Dry southern parts of the state which haven’t seen decent rain this wet season have been added to the long list of drought declared areas, pushing up the total land area in drought from 70 per cent to 79 per cent on Friday.
Agriculture Minister John McVeigh says the drought has now reached record levels.
“Queensland is a big state and there is usually a drought somewhere, but this is the largest area of Queensland that has ever been drought-declared at one time,” he said on Friday.
The affected regions include 38 council areas, four partially declared shires and 38 separate properties in another seven shires.
Southern areas of Banana, Bundaberg, Cherbourg, the Fraser Coast, Gladstone, Goondiwindi and Gympie have been added to the long list of drought-stricken areas.
Moreton Bay, Noosa, North and South Burnett, Southern Downs, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba and the Western Downs have also been included.
“The wet season in these newly declared shires has been very poor with many areas missing out altogether,” Mr McVeigh said.
Residents in drought-declared ares can apply for financial help through state and federal assistance packages via Centrelink.
Mr McVeigh says he is working with the federal government to make debt restructuring loans available as soon as possible.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott last month unveiled a $320 million assistance package, which includes increased access to a five-year concessional loan scheme worth $280 million, mental health support, and more money for wild dog control.
Mr McVeigh has said he expects the state will get a significant portion of this funding.
AgForce president Ian Burnett says including parts of the southeast in the drought-declared area was welcome news as more producers could apply for financial assistance.
He urged state and federal governments to make it as easy as possible for those affected to access the funds.
He predicts it will take the industry up to three years to recover even if drought-breaking rain fell over the coming months.
“This drought is one which has hit with great ferocity across an unprecedented area of our pastoral and agricultural land,” Mr Burnett said, adding that graziers had some tough decisions ahead.