Gus's Musings

October 20, 2019

What a Drought Policy could be….

I reckon to put together a good quality drought policy, first up you need to clearly articulate where we are and what we expect out of this policy.  So lets start with trying to explain where our community is at:


Our community has been in drought for nearly 3 years and while this isn’t as long as some other communities, this current drought is very intense.  Due to the high price of livestock most people embarked on a hand feeding program to carry their valuable genetics through, though most wouldn’t have envisaged it would stay as dry as this for so long. Due to taking on a stock feeding program without experience or correct machinery this has resulted in added costs, also in the result of people “over selling” their time, just not enough hours in the day.  Unless you consciously change, as a farmer your mood is dictated to by the weather, so most farmers have been in a poor frame of mind for a long period.  The result of this is lethargy, poor decision making (if any) and no enthusiasm for anything but getting through the day and being 1 day closer to rain.  Most farmers don’t want to be empowered to make decisions, they want to be rescued as they don’t have the energy or the ability to look forward to making decisions and turn this nightmare around.  Add to this one of the most distressing and confronting issues that happens in a drought is the smell of death.  Death is never far away, whether it is livestock, native animals, birds, fish, seeing these is a daily occurrence, it saps the life out of you.

Then you look around our local community and it has been shrinking for many years, lots of “pull to the cities” for the opportunities that exist there.  With the terms of trade declining in Agriculture for so many years, margins are very slim and there isn’t any fat left to help go through an extended drought.  Many had thought that with the advent of the MDBA Basin Plan, that would provide opportunities, as you might expect with the spending of $13Bill in the region.  This unfortunately has had the opposite effect, decreasing opportunities and putting extra strain on our communities, due partly to the rigid remote way the water is being managed.  On top of this economic signals have been very weak, this is made up for in cities by the population growth, with declining population, poor economic conditions are worse.  As was pointed out to me at the Australian Rangelands Conference in Canberra last month, “never in the last 30,000yrs has so few people lived in the rangelands of Australia”.

This picture shows that it isn’t just farmers doing it tough, it is whole communities and as “primary production” is essentially where the economy begins, it is super important for all to help these farmers and communities through this.

Gus’s Drought Policy:

  1. Focus on healthy communities that can support farmers through droughts.
  • Provide much needed R&M to aging regional roads, bridges, rail, make regional infrastructure the total focus for one year.
  • Ramp up the building of Mobile phone towers
  • Make sure that communities have quality sporting facilities as well as Mens sheds, opportunities for art, music and multiple hobbies.
  • Tour sporting hero’s through regions giving coaching opportunities that most cities don’t have.
  • Make sure that communities are empowered to help themselves.
  1. Providing more options and support for farmers:
  • There is the ability to connect farmers to urban businesspeople so that they can partner together to help the farm out of this tough situation, especially when animals are involved.
  • These businesspeople might only need to provide some helpful business advice or they may need to provide an equity arrangement to help put the farmer back in control
  • Provide multiple water options for farms and urban areas.
  • Provide the farming community with advisors to help them get through this tough time and stay healthy, reduce the number of “professionals” going around looking for sick farmers.
  1. Manage and value our scarce natural resources
  • Halt the foolishness of creating floods in the Murray when there is a drought on, regional communities have had enough of silly games and water wasting, time to be serious about water management.
  • Look to place value on the soil, plants, streams etc. so we can make decisions that take into account potential damage to environment by continued production through dry times. Only valuing the products we produce is no longer the best way to make decisions, we need to change as we gain knowledge.


Anyway this is my crack at what I reckon should happen, I’m aware that this only one persons opinion and so please correct me where I have got it all wrong.  Regional communities are gold and we all need to make sure that they feel that love, if you have the opportunity to visit regional towns, please I urge you to take it,  spending some money and handing out kindness.


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