MP pushes for drought relief as region's farmers suffer
THE continuous dry weather is taking its toll on farmers and graziers on the Fraser Coast, like Don Schmidt, who grows cane near Island Plantation.
When the Chronicle asked what the situation looked like in his area right now, Mr Schmidt replied "extremely dry".
Mr Schmidt said the last time his property received any substantial rain, was back in June last year; almost nine months ago.
"Where we are here, we're on the effluent reuse scheme for Maryborough, and the water got pretty low in the storage so we've been put on a roster where we're just allowed two days of water a week," Mr Schmidt said.
"The cane is going backwards now very rapidly."
DRY WEATHER COVERAGE:
To keep his crop alive, Mr Schmidt is using about 2.63 mega litres of water per week on Saturdays and Sundays.
Looking on the positive side of the harsh reality, Mr Schmidt said he was saving some money on irrigating bills, because he was not allowed to pump as much water.
The cane grower said he had been working with cane all his life, and had seen his fair share of droughts and floods.
"You just say 'it's going to be better next year'," he said.
With no decent rain predicted for the near future, Maryborough MP Bruce Saunders is encouraging people in the region to have their properties drought declared through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Forestry, in order to get subsidies to keep them going.
Mr Saunders said after hearing from some property owners on the Fraser Coast, he believed many parts of the region could be officially declared drought-stricken.
"We're in big trouble," Mr Saunders said.
"I'm terribly worried about the cane, that's why we need federal assistance, we can't go through this again; the last time it was this bad in late 80s and 90s, we have to get water."
Mr Saunders said now was the time for property owners and the Fraser Coast Regional Council to be "making noises" to the DAFF, in order to make drought relief accessible.
The Labor MP said concerned members of the community had already started coming into his office, asking how to receive drought relief.
"It's heartbreaking to hear some of these stories," he said.
To apply for drought relief, go to www.daf.qld.gov.au/environment/drought/assistance-programs.