Growcom, the peak body representing the Queensland horticulture industry, has welcomed an announcement from Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt that growers impacted by drought will have another 12 months to apply for funding from the Australian Government’s On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme (EWIRS).

However, concerns remain that Queensland growers might miss out on the national support with no signal from the Palaszczuk Government they intend on signing up to the scheme and match the investment made by the Australian Government. 

“There is a worrying trend emerging in the way the Queensland Government is managing its drought assistance to industry, and in administering emergency water rebates in particular, which has led to a lack of confidence among growers”, said Growcom CEO Stephen Barnard.

“Through the last round of Federal funding growers of permanent tree crops in Queensland missed out entirely. They applied and made investments in emergency water infrastructure in good faith, only to find out the funds in Queensland had been overspent.”

“Though it turned out to be only academic because our industry received no support, we understand Queensland was also the only state or territory not to stump up matching funds for permanent tree crops through the Federal program.

“Matched funding appears to be a condition of this latest round, and possibly explains what the Queensland Government is baulking at. 

“Meanwhile the state government has remained unresponsive to legitimate requests that their own generous program currently exclusively enjoyed by the livestock industry, offering a 50 percent rebate on emergency water infrastructure, be extended to horticulture. 

“Tree crops can’t be moved to water while livestock can. And the long term economic cost, including reduced employment and local business activity, from a lost tree crop is unsurpassed. It’s time we had greater equity in the support offered to Queensland agriculture through this drought and the next.

“We’re keenly anticipating a positive response from the Queensland Government, to match Federal funds and extend their own support to horticulture, if not now then through the next budget at the very latest.”