By Heidi Sheehan,
Edited for online By Tom Sharman
Despite heavy rainfall in South East Queensland, Central West Queensland continues to suffer from what some locals are calling the worst drought on record.
Barcaldine mayor Rob Chandler says the drought is verging on national disaster.
“Well look droughts come and go, but this one is almost a national disaster, you know there is no income, and we are coming into the winter months so there is no chance of rain virtually until Christmas.
“It’s an isolated pocket but it’s probably 25 per cent of Queensland just in the central west area that’s in a real mess.”
Central West Queensland’s water supplies are running extremely low and Mr Chandler says the town of Ilfracombe has only five months of drinkable water left but has received extra supplies of water.
“We sent up 4,500 litres of pure drinking water through IGA, look its only a token gesture but its probably going to keep them going and a cup of tea and a cold drink of water for a month.”
The area receives more than 500 millimetres of rainfall on average during the wet season, but some parts of the region haven’t seen any decent rainfall in more than three years and Mr Chandler says they need all they can get.
“Down in Brisbane it’s a fairly high rainfall area, and to see that 200 or 300 millimetres the other day, a fraction of that would have done us good out here,” Mr Chandler said.
The Ilfracombe Wellshot Hotel publican Ross Given, who moved from the Gold Coast with his wife Jac out west seven months ago, says the water donation is a welcome gesture.
“It’s very nice to have sympathetic neighbors to A, give us some water and B, give us some confidence, that just around the traps are people thinking of us.
“There is just as much to do with the confidence of the community as the water itself,” Mr Given said.
The Drought Relief Program Coordinator for the region Ingrid Miller, says it is not just the people on the land who are being impacted, communities are experiencing a loss of employment, loss of income and reduced school numbers.
“For the first couple of years it was really a lot of impact on the graziers themselves, but now the impact has moved to the towns and into the communities and its really just had that flow on effect.
Mrs Miller says just one decent rainfall won’t break the drought.
“A lot of graziers have sold all their stock, so to rebuild those numbers and have breeding stock to sell again takes between three to five years.”
Local businesses are wanting a cash injection to help keep the communities going says Mrs Miller, with some local businesses down $20,000 per month.
The recently set-up Western Queensland Drought Appeal aims to promote the idea that monetary donations are the most beneficial for the community at the moment.
“So that group is really working with a lot of the other outside external groups, who are looking at coming in and who initially may think that hay and material assistance is the way to go, but if they are able to talk to us first then we can help point them in the right direction,” Mrs Miller said.