5 August: The economic and social impacts of the drought on the Scenic Rim region have been detailed by Council in a submission seeking an extension of Federal Government funding.
The economic and social impacts of the drought on the Scenic Rim region have been detailed by Council in a submission seeking an extension of Federal Government funding.
In contributing to a submission by the Local Government Association of Queensland to the Australian Local Government Association, Scenic Rim Regional Council emphasised that although the region had been drought-declared since May 2019 it was not eligible to apply for funding under the Commonwealth's Drought Communities Programme.
Scenic Rim Mayor Greg Christensen said agriculture was the biggest industry in the Scenic Rim which, together with tourism, contributed $630 million to the regional economy and was part of the region's identity.
"Agriculture, forestry and fishing comprise 25.9 per cent of all total registered businesses in the Scenic Rim compared with 9.2 per cent across Queensland, which reinforces the level of potential impact the drought has on the region," he said.
"In spite of this, and the fact that the Scenic Rim Regional Council Local Government Area has been drought-declared since May 2019, it is not eligible to apply for funding under the Drought Communities Programme.
"Programmes such as this should have a mechanism where local government areas that are drought-declared can be deemed eligible to apply for funding."
Cr Christensen said the program in its current format seemed to lack crucial elements of funding eligibility, such as for programs to build community resilience, develop strategies for sustainable farming practices and identify and support mental health issues in the community caused by the drought.
"Scenic Rim is a rural/regional community but being located in South East Queensland and close to large metropolitan centres also places our community at a geographical disadvantage as we are not eligible for many rural funding programs," he said.
"Council has received a lot of feedback, particularly from farmers, on how difficult it is to access financial support. The process is often onerous and complex, which discourages members of the community from seeking support.
"Scenic Rim has many secondary businesses that rely on primary agri-business for survival and these businesses - companies which truck stock and deal in farm machinery and rural produce - are not considered for funding.
"Loss of income through reduced spending from farming communities then flows on to others in the commercial sector."
As part of its 2019-20 Budget, Council has reviewed its rates assistance and relief offered to eligible drought-affected landholders, including discretionary extensions of up to three months for approved applicants to receive their rates discount.
"While we have had requests for consideration on rates relief matters including concessions, Council has to be considerate of all ratepayers and the challenges they face coupled with Council's obligation to maintain infrastructure and services to provide economic stability," Cr Christensen said.
Published: 5 August 2019