Federal funding increase a win for Queenslands drought-affected communities and councils

Published: 7th November 2019

The Federal Government’s move to provide drought funding for non-farm businesses and extra funding for councils in drought-affected regions is a huge win for Queensland communities.

Drought does not stop at the farmgate: it devastates entire communities. In a severe drought all businesses are confronted by falling revenues, adversely affecting employment and a community’s ability to provide essential services for its residents.

More than 66 percent of the land area of Queensland is drought declared, directly or indirectly affecting in excess of one million people.

Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) Chief Executive Greg Hallam said while it is farm businesses that feel the immediate impact of drought, entire communities suffer the flow-on effects of a downturn in the agribusiness sector.

“The LGAQ has been at the forefront of arguing that, in severe drought, assistance needs to be extended to all businesses affected by drought – and the Government has listened,” Mr Hallam said.

“The decision to extend support to non-farm businesses is a critical change in mindset in how we, as a nation, support our communities when severe drought strikes."

The new package will provide over $330 million to councils across Australia.

Mr Hallam said the $138.9 million supplement in Roads to Recovery funding and the quarantining of the next $200 million round of the Building Better Regions Fund to councils in drought-affected areas will be important in helping communities manage and recover from the current drought. He also noted that the Drought Communities Program will be extended on a discretionary basis.

“The LGAQ applauds the Federal Government for recognising the critical role of councils in leading and supporting their communities through drought, and we look forward to hearing further detail on how they can access this increase in funding,” Mr Hallam said.

“The value to communities of the extra drought funding to be provided to councils cannot be underestimated. Councils are often the major employer in regional and rural towns and witness first-hand the impact of drought on their communities.

“This is why the LGAQ has prepared an eight-point Local Government Drought Action Plan that would empower councils, communities and businesses to better prepare for and respond to drought.”

Mr Hallam called for all levels of government to work together to enhance the ability of communities to prepare for and manage drought.

“When it comes to the impacts on our communities, economy and environment, there is no distinction between severe drought and natural disasters such as floods and cyclones. Our entire nation needs a comprehensive, integrated approach to preparing for and managing all of these severe events, not just some of them.”

Listen: Councils are best placed to be the centre of drought preparedness for their communities.