Weekly Speak CEO Column
Pain of a sunburnt country
Discussion around the ravages of drought across half of the Queensland land mass has been front and centre in the media the last few weeks, as it should. The LGAQ particularly welcomes Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement this week of $190 million in extra drought funding, as well as the news from Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Michael McCormack that he will talk to drought-affected councils about the potential to bring forward Roads to Recovery funding to help local economies.
While tragic footage of stock dying in dusty paddocks is the media’s routine way of telling the story of drought, it’s important to remember that drought is not just a problem for primary producers. The small businesses in the towns that keep regional economies ticking over, the motels, boutiques and cafes, are all part of the story when it comes to who is the most impacted by drought.
That is why the Deputy PM’s move and a $20 million infrastructure package for drought-hit regions that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced he would introduce if Labor won the next election are policy responses as vital as lifting drought aid to farmers.
These are tough times, there’s no denying it. As I’m a kid who grew up on the Darling Downs and shared the bath water during dry spells, I get it. I can also remember reciting Dorothea Mackellar’s My Country at primary school: “I love a sunburnt country. A land of sweeping plains, of rugged mountain ranges and droughts and flooding rains.”
Drought and flood have been a permanent feature of our landscape through millennia. Our indigenous peoples expertly worked with that ecology for thousands of years. This article is a wonderful insight to drought and good times across Australia over the past century.
What’s clearly different now is the severity of weather events; the length and breadth of droughts and severity of bushfires, storms and cyclones. The data globally is undeniable. Climate change is real.
What to do then? The LGAQ is being practical. All Queensland councils who are members of both LGM and LGW effectively won’t be left out of pocket for their LGAQ subscriptions for a decade or more. That takes some pressure off ratepayers in drought affected areas. We are also working with many of the charitable bodies supporting drought affected areas. I met the Red Cross yesterday for an update.
Best of all, the LGAQ is putting a lot of resources and effort into preparing councils for a different weather future. Dorean Erhart is managing an excellent program, Queensland Climate Resilient Councils (Q CRC), which helps strengthen councils’ capability to plan for wilder weather events and find practical adaptation solutions. Subathra Ramachandram is managing another program, QCoast2100 - the Queensland coastal hazard adaptation program, which is using $12 million in State funds over three years to help councils plan for climate change related coastal hazards. Put simply, the LGAQ is helping councils put together the building blocks needed cope with our new weather paradigm.
At the other end of the spectrum we continue to invest much time and resources into supporting councils in disaster management.
The LGAQ realises it is councils themselves that have to do the hard yards on preparing for what’s coming but rest assured your Association is quietly doing its bit to support councils in that very large and growing but honourable task of looking out for their communities.
Note the final line in the most famous stanza of Miss Mackellar’s immortal poem goes like this: Her beauty and her terror , the wide brown land for me!
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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