Following recommendations from Local Drought Committees, seven more shires in Queensland have been declared drought affected, bringing the state’s share of parched regions to 87%.
The regions of Fraser Coast, North Burnett, South Burnett, Cherbourg, Gympie, Somerset and the remainder of Banana have been added to the list of shires that are officially in drought, said Queensland Agricultural Minister Bill Byrne.
“These latest declarations bring the total area of Queensland where drought is declared to 87.47%. That is the highest ever, and I am still waiting for some committees to send me their recommendations.”
Although drought committees usually meet in April, Byrne brought the meetings forward because of the unusually dry season.
“I have been advised that while some parts of south east Queensland have received some patchy storm rainfall over the summer season, good general rainfall across the whole region has not been received.”
Despite severe storms in Brisbane area over the summer, the state as a whole struggled with a lack of rain. Fraser Coast, for example, had the lowest rainfall on record this past year.
Byrne fears that the drought has had a significant impact on agricultural production in the regions.
“In fact, the Fraser Coast region had the lowest rainfall in its recorded history over the past 12 months, and the overall outlook for the cane industry and other cropping in the Fraser Coast is poor,” Byrne said.
Irrigators in drought-declared areas are able to access subsidies and emergency water infrastructure rebates through the Drought Relief Assistance Scheme, in addition to other programs in the Queensland Drought Assistance Package if they are eligible.
The threshold for a drought declaration is generally a once in 10- to 15-year rainfall deficiency.