Government Drought Program under review

THE Queensland Government’s Drought Program is being reviewed.  An expert panel is considering what has worked well, what could be improved, and how the State and industry can better prepare for future droughts.

The panel has sought industry feedback on what can be improved and how future resilience can be built.

Ruth Wade and Charles Burke, former chief executive officers of the Queensland Farmers Federation (QFF) and AgForce Queensland respectively, have been appointed to the panel.

The panel held regional forums throughout September and October at Dalby, Charleville, Longreach, Cloncurry, Ayr and Bundaberg, and will deliver its recommendations to the Queensland Government in early 2019.

Producers will continue to receive support throughout this ongoing drought.

On 13 August, it was announced the Drought Relief Assistance Scheme (DRAS) would be increased including:  

  • subsidies for freight including distance travelled up to 2000 kms;
  • increasing the maximum claimable when entering a sixth year of drought of up to $50,000 per financial year with an approved Drought Management Plan in place; and
  • increased assistance to the hired carrier freight rate being either 50% of the loaded portion of the transport cost, or 20 cents per tonne per kilometre.

Additional funding for mental health services and a small business financial counselling service across Queensland was also announced. For more information on drought assistance visit daf.qld.gov.au/drought or call 13 25 23.

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Figure 1. Total fine sediment reduction by project type and erosion source. Inset shows the proportion of the total project area for each project type.

These estimates have been calculated using two methods: 

1) The pollutant reduction component of the Alluvium/Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) investment tool for hillslope and streambank erosion management projects; 

2) The Reef Trust Gully Toolbox method for gully erosion management projects. The LDC Water Quality Report 2020 (Waterhouse et al., 2020) highlights that a number of assumptions underlay these calculations, therefore these figures should be treated as the best available estimate of sediment reductions to date.

Preventing sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Each wet season sediment is washed into local waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

Most sediment is very fine, and can stay suspended for a long time and can travel great distances. Valuable topsoil is lost from production, and increased concentrations on the reef can be harmful to seagrasses and corals. 

Landholders in the BBB have completed 69 on-ground water quality practice changes, and it is estimated that these have contributed a fine sediment reduction of 6,154 tonnes per year from reaching the GBR. 

Of this, approximately half of the sediment savings are attributable to grazing land management changes on hillslopes and streambanks, and the other half as a result of gully remediation treatments across a broad range of scales, as shown in the graphs above. 

The table below also highlights the relatively small area of intervention in the gully management projects compared to the large sediment savings that these can achieve - 60 per cent of the sediment savings over only 4 per cent of the project area.

Table 1. Estimated sediment reductions (tonnes) from projects completed in the LDC Project to date.

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*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

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*The Exploring New Incentives activity area has provided an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved land management practices through a range of activities. For some of these properties, it was the first time they signed contracts for on-ground works.

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The LDC project monitors four gully sites (represented in this table) with gold standard equipment and analysis, carried out by CSIRO.

Results have been compiled in a preliminary report from Bartley et al (2020), with the final report expected to be released by the end of 2020. The preliminary report shows all four sites have indicators of improvements, notably the Strathbogie and Mt Wickham sites.

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Reef regulations - grazing, standard conditions

  1. For land in good or fair condition (more than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), continue using measures to maintain land condition.
  2. For land in poor condition (less than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition.
  3. For land in degraded condition (less than 20 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition OR prevent areas from further degrading or expanding.
  4. Keep records of measures taken and also of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud or mill ash applied to land.
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