Resources for Drought Resilience Plan in the Mid West

We have recently completed a summary of drought policies and programs in Western Australia and an overview of population demographics  and drought risk priorities for the three LGAs participating in the Future Drought Fund Regional Drought Resilience Planning Program in the Mid West.

NACC NRM, DPIRD and the Mid West Development Commission are working with the City of Greater Geraldton and the Shires of Chapman Valley and Northampton to plan ahead for dealing with drought. Crisis management and financial assistance policies focused on drought response and recovery are commonly used around the world but drought relief packages have been a source of tension in some areas. They are often seen by recipients as ‘too little, too late’ or as over-complicated and difficult to access. Drought resilience measures that promote self-reliance and preparedness are generally preferred by farmers, industry and government agencies. Globally, and in Australia, policies have shifted towards developing early warning systems and proactive risk management strategies that build resilience to drought.

Drought impacts can be significant, affecting communities, the economy and the environment. The last major drought in the region occurred in 2006 and 2007. Reduction in household income, financial hardship and a drop in financial position were three major economic impacts experienced by the local community during the last drought. Environmental impacts included irreversible damage to soil and vegetation, leading to dust storms and a loss of top soil, soil nutrients, organic matter and soil carbon. Social impacts included permanent loss of services in regional areas, loss of employment opportunities and negative physical and mental health impacts. Some existing factors that might make these communities more vulnerable to the impacts of drought include low family incomes, low levels of internet connectivity, high numbers of juvenile convictions and prison admissions, poor air quality and high heat vulnerability (days over 38 degrees).

Very large investments are currently being made into proactive resilience-building activities in order to limit the negative impacts of future droughts. A recent report by Anna Dixon Consulting identifies at least 10 international, 42 national, 20 state and 10 local agencies involved in drought research, preparedness, response and recovery, including the World Health Organisation, ABARES, Western Australian Farmer’s Federation and local grower groups. The report also includes a non-exhaustive list of approximately 50 programs that can support communities to plan and prepare for, respond effectively to and recover from drought, including the World Meteorological Organisation’s Climate Services Program, Rural Financial Counselling Services and Future Drought Fund.  

At the local scale, the main land use in three LGAs participating in the Regional Drought Resilience Planning Program is broadacre agriculture. Agriculture accounts for approximately half the total value of the economy and half of all employment in the Shire of Chapman Valley and about a third of these measures in the Shire of Northampton. The City of Greater Geraldton has a more diversified economy and agriculture contributes to about 5% of economic output and employment. While agriculture makes up only a small proportion of the overall economic output in Greater Geraldton, the size of annual output from this sector is larger than the other two participating LGAs and is valued at $334.74 million. Drought assistance measures in Western Australia (WA) are guided by the National Drought Agreement and a number of state and regional development strategies. To successfully mitigate and adapt to increasingly frequent and severe drought over the long term and increase productivity, this region is looking into alternative production systems and better decision-making tools for broadacre farmers, while also supporting pastoral leaseholders to become more viable by diversifying their income sources.

Map: Land uses in the Mid West region.

For more information, or to view the full report put together by Anna Dixon Consulting, please visit the Mid West Regional Drought Resilience Planning webpage or contact NACC NRM’s Senior Conservation Planning Officer, Dr Amanda Bourne, 0474 652 595; amanda.bourne@nacc.com.au.

This program is jointly funded through the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund and the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

Dr Amanda Bourne – Senior Conservation Planning Officer

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