Drought discussed at Longreach forum

Discussion leads to action: communities will keep talking about drought in West Queensland.

Businesses and communities speak up about drought to keep the discussion flowing, even when the rain isn’t.

Investment into tourism, wild dog fencing and internet connectivity were some of the key issues raised at a drought forum in Longreach on the weekend.

Featuring a panel of state politicians, community members, Suncorp Bank and the Queensland Police, the forum was held in an effort to increase awareness and promote discussion about ongoing issues in drought-affected areas in far-Western Queensland and beyond.

Councillor Cameron O’Neil says that these issues stretch far and wide in regional Queensland, with many communities including Maranoa facing common struggles associated with drought.

“We are in the north-west of our [Maranoa] area experiencing drought conditions… so for us its about hearing what government has to say and what community has to say and collectively ensuring that the issues that we are all facing are highlighted to government,” he says.

Luckily funding hasn’t dried up and the forum came with a timely federal government promise of $10 million towards pest management strategies in drought-stricken areas of Queensland.

While long-term drought areas such as Murweh, Barcaldine and Longreach will be first in line for the funding, other affected regions including Maranoa, Balonne and Goondiwindi have been recognised as second areas.

“It’s a welcome contribution and hopefully we see more investment into the future as well… I think Government are listening and as soon as some of that money can hit the ground, the better,” says Cr O’Neil.

The funding comes as a testament to the benefit of ongoing discussions, which help to promote community solidarity and acknowledgement of the struggles shared by regional cousins.

And while attendants were there to get stuck into the serious stuff, many took the time to have a beer and enjoy the iconic voices of Paul Kelly and Troy Cassar-Daley at the Drought Relief Concert on Friday night.

“I think initiatives like we saw in Longreach over the weekend also play a role in brining community together… a little reprieve from the day-to-day grind of managing drought conditions is important to break a little bit of the day into something that is enjoyable.”