By Jeremy Sollars
The Southern Downs Regional Council will write to the State Government for the second time in as many months asking for the region’s drought declaration to be reinstated.
Councillors at their November meeting resolved to write to the “incoming Minister for Agriculture” – unknown at time of printing of Rural Links this month – asking that “the Drought Declaration for the Southern Downs region be immediately reinstated pending the next review in March/April 2018”.
A previous request back in October was knocked back by the Palaszczuk government later that month, on the basis of recorded rainfall and weather forecasting.
The region’s last drought declaration was lifted by the State Government in May, based on a recommendation from the Local Drought Committee, the membership of which is kept confidential to prevent recriminations on members in the event of an unfavourable recommendation.
The November resolution, moved by Cr Rod Kelly and seconded by Cr Vic Pennisi, also called for the drought declaration process to be reviewed “with the aim of being more transparent, and that the Drought Committee for Southern Downs include a representative from Southern Downs Regional Council”.
It further called for drought declaration criteria to “be reviewed in line with current scientific climate studies”.
A council statement released around the time of the September meeting – when the first resolution seeking the drought declaration reinstatement was passed – said the council’s letter to then Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne “pointed out that while council understands that there are rigorous criteria that the Local Drought Committee must follow in arriving at its recommendations, the Southern Downs region, and in particular our primary producers, are struggling with the current situation, following the lifting earlier this year of the ‘drought declaration’ status”.
“The letter outlined council’s serious concerns given the forecast rainfall for the region together with the serious deficiency in rainfall for the region over the last three month period, as well as below average soil moisture content, as identified by the Bureau of Meteorology,” the statement said.
“It requested the reinstatement of the drought declaration status for the Southern Downs region.
“The next review by the Local Drought Committee is not scheduled until the end of summer, but council will lobby the Minister to look at the Southern Downs as a special case.”
Primary producers who do not fall within an area or shire that is drought declared but who believe they are experiencing drought conditions can apply for an Individually Droughted Property (IDP) declaration through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF),
Further information about how to apply for an IDP declaration is available from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website at www.daf.qld.gov.au
Primary producers requiring advice and assistance are also encouraged to contact Michael Fagg of the Rural Financial Counselling service in Warwick on 0419 732 591.
La Nina to be “weak and short-lived”
The Bureau of Meteorology said this month its outlook for the Australian summer had been “raised to La Nina, indicating that the tropical Pacific has reached La Nina levels”.
But it also said climate models suggested that “this La Nina will be weak and short-lived, persisting until early southern autumn 2018”.
La Nina patterns in the Pacific – associated with cooler ocean temperatures – generally mean above average rainfall for eastern Australia during late spring and summer.
But the bureau has said that “sea surface temperature patterns in the Indian Ocean and closer to Australia are not typical of a La Nina event, reducing the likelihood of widespread above average summer rainfall”.
2017 official BOM rainfall data for the region …
Official Bureau of Meteorology rainfall data for Stanthorpe has been compromised this year by a lack of volunteers in the first few months at the Stanthorpe Visitor Information Centre on Leslie Parade.
Volunteers had been responsible for checking the nearby weather station, with no weather data recorded with BOM in January at all, and gaps of many days in the following few months.
Complete BOM records for Stanthorpe are only available from June onwards.
But what is clear is that total rainfall for the year for both Warwick and Stanthorpe has been well below the long-term averages.
NOTE – December rainfall data reflects rainfall recorded up to time of printing of Rural Links mid-month. First column 2017 official BOM rainfall; second column is long-term average.
Jan 120.8 (85.3)
Feb 56.6 (63.2)
March 214.2 (68.6)
April 14 (29.7)
May 17.8 (39.3)
June 30.8 (38)
July 21.5 (25.5)
August 5.6 (27.1)
Sept 0.6 (36.9)
Oct 59.8 (68.6)
Nov 41.4 (89.7)
Dec 22.2 (106)
TOTAL: 605.3 (681.6)
Jan N/A (96.9)
Feb 0.3? (85)
March 227.3? (67)
April 34.2? (42.2)
May 18.2? (46.7)
June 27 (47.1)
July 21.6 (48.3)
August 11.2 (42.5)
Sept 3 (51.3)
Oct 131.4 (69.3)
Nov 64 (75.5)
Dec 13 (95.1)
TOTAL: 551.2 (767.2)