DROUGHT: The help available for Fraser Coast farmers

FRASER Coast's drought declaration is a major development, but there is still a long way to go before the region's primary producers can celebrate.

Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne announced the Fraser Coast would become one of seven regions to be formally drought-declared.

It raised Queensland's total drought-declared area to 87.47%, a record level.

Drought declaration was sought by both local and state governments.

Fraser Coast councillor James Hansen was vocal in his support for the move, while Maryborough MP Bruce Saunders added his voice to the calls.

When the good news was delivered on Saturday, Cr Hansen celebrated the decision, saying it was long overdue, but stressed that farmers were not yet in the clear.

"It's certainly high time (for the decision), but it's better late than never," Cr Hansen said.

"It's a commonsense decision. It's a big help to primary producers."

When preparing for the 2014-15 Budget in March 2014, Cr Hansen raised a motion to defer rates for farmers while the region was drought-declared.

The idea was implemented, and Mr Byrne's decision to declare the Fraser Coast as in-drought meant farmers would be able to defer their rates without incurring interest.

Fraser Coast mayor Chris Loft said it was welcome relief for the region's producers.

"Primary producers can defer rates without the interest component but, in the meantime, we'll just need some more rain," Cr Loft said.

"This affects our whole economy. It affects a lot of people. When there's greenery, there is that feeling of prosperity.

"We need that rain to get the grass green and trees growing again."

At state government level, Mr Byrne said in a statement that drought-declared producers were able to access DRAS fodder and water freight subsidies and emergency water infrastructure rebates, as well as other programs in the Queensland Drought Assistance Package if they were eligible.

This includes relief from electricity charges, land rent rebates and water licence waivers, as well as access to community and mental health programs.

The threshold for a drought declaration was generally a once in 10-to-15-year rainfall deficiency, though Mr Byrne said the Fraser Coast had "the lowest rainfall in its recorded history" during the last year, and that the outlook for the cane industry and other cropping was poor.

Cr Hansen stressed it was important for residents to continue supporting local producers as the dry spell looked set to last for the foreseeable future.



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