Environment

Queensland drought ‘critical’: commissioner

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One of Queensland's newly appointed drought commissioners says the "critical" situation facing farmers is the worst that he has seen in his 71 years.

Vaughan Johnson and Mark O'Brien were on Monday recruited to advise the state government about how best to spend its $9 million drought relief package, which was fast-tracked this week.

Pictured on his drought-stricken property in Pilton, near Toowoomba in Queensland, dairy farmer Brendan Hayden has been forced to buy feed for his cattle, the price of which is climbing.

Photo: Peter Rickards

Mr Johnson, a former LNP politician who lives in Longreach, said the funding boost could not have come at a better time as the ongoing lack of rain was making it hard for rural communities to stay afloat.

"I have never seen such a depressed economy, such depressed people as we are witnessing now," he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

"It's worse than critical.

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"The feed situation in the central west is zilch, there's none at all, and we're now leading into the seventh year which is unprecedented in my lifetime, and I've seen some bad droughts."

He said the one glimmer of hope was that the price of stock had gone up, but that those who wanted to buy them often couldn't.

"We're in a Catch-22 situation. People that have got no stock are struggling to purchase them and the ones who do want to purchase them don't have any feed to put them on," he said.

Mr Johnson urged anybody wanting to help to donate cash, or visit affected towns.

The state government's funding will be spread across a number of existing programs, including a $4 million injection over four years for mental health services provided by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

The government has also earmarked $2 million over two years for the Tackling Regional Adversity through Integrated Care program, and $1 million to increase from 1000km to 2000km the distance which stock feed can be transported at a subsidised rate.

AAP

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