By Acting CEO Richard Shannon
By the time you pick up the print edition of the Queensland Country Life this week the Queensland Budget will already have been handed down.
At the time of writing however, the details of the budget still remain a matter of speculation.
This shouldn’t stop us from setting down a few measures for a successful budget for the agriculture and horticulture sectors.
While the entire economy is currently experiencing a shortage of workers, it is the horticulture industry that’s also having to simultaneously adjust to a new normal where there’ll be fewer backpackers to recruit and a greater dependence on other migration programs, including the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme.
Agriculture industries will be looking for an ongoing commitment this budget to the Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network, which has supported experts in the regions to deliver advice on worker attraction, recruitment, skilling and retainment. These trusted advisers will be only more valuable to horticulture as our workforce transitions.
The Queensland Government has already made an announcement in the last couple of days on the construction of 1,200 new social homes as pressure builds on all levels of government to do more to alleviate the critical shortage of housing.
Social homes aside, the horticulture industry is facing its own housing crisis.
There are already next to no affordable and suitable houses in many key growing regions, making the job of recruiting skilled professionals to the region and industry ever harder.
But perhaps most pressing is the shortage of accommodation for seasonal workers, especially in a new world where more workers are arriving under the PALM scheme, which requires a higher standard of accommodation than has typically been on offer to backpackers.
Government could do far worse than make an allocation of funding to assist growers in planning, designing and building accommodation on-farm.
Over the next year Queensland communities will continue to recover from a series of rain and flooding events that have set many key growing regions back on their heels.
And unfortunately with a wet outlook, we should be budgeting for more events.
Disaster recovery grant support in response the most recent event in mid-May, impacting growers from Bowen down through the Sunshine Coast and especially the Lockyer Valley, is yet to be confirmed more than five weeks’ later.
Growers from impacted areas will be hoping to see some support flow from government as soon as possible, and ideally confirmed in the budget.