The Range News is Maleny's premium Weekly Newspaper delivered each Friday
to the People of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland from Glasshouse to
Kenilworth and west to Peachester.

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Drought hits farmers hard
by Cameron Outridge    (06.12.02)

A Maleny dairy farmer says the current drought is the worst he has seen in 45 years. And while Queensland's chances of receiving relief rain over summer have slightly improved, the El Nino pattern showed no signs of breaking down.

Mal Thompson says the worsening drought is having a devastating effect on hinterland farmers. "I've been up here about 45 years and it's a green drought but the water situation is very desperate,'' he said.  "There's creeks and swamps and so forth that have never been dry that are now bone dry. Some farmers have only got about a month's water left.

Fellas in Conondale are just as bad.  "We have cattle dying now in our mountain country. "Generally when we get a bit of a dry period we get cattle getting bogged around wet areas trying to get to water. Now I can drive my motorbike across those same wet areas. "If it doesn't rain soon then there are going to be a lot more cattle dying.  "We've been feeding ours for the past eight or nine months. That costs a lot of money.'' Mal said his cows' milk production had dropped from 1500 litres down to about 1300 litres a day in the past four or five days. "And generally, this time of year, we're producing about 3000 litres a day,'' he said. "That's how it's affecting us.''

Caloundra Shire was drought declared on November 19, but Mal said the effects of the drought had been hitting home long before then.  "The most important thing is that other drought affected hinterland farmers needed to be aware that they are eligible for assistance,'' Mal said. Help is available.  Phone the Drought Hotline

For assistance across a broad range of areas farmers can phone the DPI Drought Hotline on 1800 025 656.

The Drought Hotline is a free, one-stop service for drought information and assistance. It will operate Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm excluding public holidays.  Staffed by DPI officers, the hotline provides the latest information on financial assistance, social, community and training services, drought planning, and management support and advice.  Hotline staff will advise callers on financial assistance.  This assistance may include freight subsidies such as the Drought Relief Assistance Scheme, registrations and road train permits for vehicles used in drought relief, school transport allowances, electricity tariff relief, land rents and stock route fees, and Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority loans for producers recovering from drought.

The hotline will also connect people to social and community services that can provide advice about personal and family concerns, including depression, domestic violence and women's health.  Weekly climate outlooks are also available on the hotline. And it provs details on DPI workshops about how to interpret and utilise climate and weather forecasts; and an electronic trading site for producers and suppliers seeking to buy or sell stockfeed.

Producers will be able to contact DPI farm financial counsellors, and access information on property management and how to negotiate with banks and other financial institutions through the hotline. 

..........Rainfall prospects improve slightly, but El Nino remains..

Our thanks once again to Cameron & Tanya Outridge
of the Range News Newspaper for this story.