FED TO THE SHARKS: How regional water security was forgotten
THE flow of funds to parched regional communities has dried up as Queensland State Government redirects millions of dollars to urban centres.
Southern Downs farming families now face critical water shortages alongside 65 per cent of the state, with no additional budget funding allocated within the 2019-2020 state budget.
Federal member for Maranoa and Minister for Water Resources and Drought David Littleproud said it's clear water security of the Southern Downs isn't a state priority.
"Most of the money they use to pay for infrastructure comes from west of the Great Dividing Range," he said
"But bugger all of that money is coming back here."
"It's very disappointing."
Southern Downs Regional Council mayor Tracy Dobie said it was annoying that the state government seemed to have forgotten where their food was coming from.
"If the country has an expectation for that food production to continue they need to invest in the food and water infrastructure to support it," she said.
"They seem to build more infrastructure where the larger population is, rather than bringing it to regional Queensland."
After securing tens of millions in federal and farmer funding for the proposed Emu Swamp Dam, the federal minister was frustrated by the Queensland Government's silence on the project which has lain unactioned for over 38 years.
"They only need to provide the final $13 million but they won't even give us approval," Mr Littleproud said.
"They're on the go-slow.
"They just don't care what's happening out here."
Cr Dobie said she was disappointed nothing specific was announced to address the region's water security but held out hope for funding in the future.
"We might still get funding in the coming year," she said.
"We've been in discussions with the state government about providing support as drought continues to bite the region.
"The state government is waiting for further information from the Granite Belt Irrigation Project before approving the next stage of the dam, and they won't put that forward until they're satisfied that gap has been filled."
The dam is one of a number of water infrastructure projects needed to alleviate the economical and psychological cost of drought, as farmers face a once-in-20-years dry spell lowering winter crop production and increasing feed costs.
"How can you grow communities without the water to sustain them?" Mr Littleproud said.
"They're holding up the development of regional Queensland."
A new federal proposal to give rate relief to small businesses and farmers in rural areas was also ignored.
"We proposed it because local council still need rate revenue but it'd be great to give farmers a bit of a holiday," Mr Littleproud said.
"But the Queensland Premiere hasn't even bothered to reply."
Instead, the Queensland Government pledged $17 million of the $525 million agricultural and fisheries money toward shark control and swimmer safety.
"Their signature agricultural development for the state was shark nets which just goes to show they don't have any vision or understanding of the agricultural industry," Mr Littleproud said.
To both the federal and local members of government the distribution signalled a bid for votes, rather than long term, state-wide prosperity.
Despite the almost-$8 million in grants the Southern Downs will receive to go towards building other aspects of the region, such as roads, Cr Dobie said it was clear budget allocations across Queensland focused on more marginal seats.
Mr Littleproud agreed, saying Queenslanders were not being treated equally across the board.
"They don't see fit to invest out here because of the smaller population," he said.
"But it shouldn't be about the 2020 election, it should be about doing what's right for the whole state.
"We shouldn't have our lifestyles here impacted by someone who lives 100km away."
The Warwick Daily News reached out to Deputy Premiere Jackie Trad for comment regarding the state budget but did not receive a response prior to print.