Garry Wilkinson took these photos, in early June,  of Storm King Dam, Stanthorpe's only water supply.
Garry Wilkinson took these photos, in early June, of Storm King Dam, Stanthorpe's only water supply. "As a result of this on-going drought, the capacity is down to 31%," he said. "The foreshore is quite damp indicating a quickly diminishing water level." Garry Wilkinson

On the brink of disaster

THE drought ravaging the Southern Downs may soon be labelled a natural disaster, as the Southern Downs Regional Council seeks further assistance from state and federal governments.

The suggestion from SDRC comes as part of a Drought Submission for the Federal Government, to be tabled by Federal Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud.

The declaration would enable the council to co-ordinate drought relief efforts with other levels of government and access the funds required to offset the cost of water carting that "the community can little afford to pay for on its own.”

"Carting to an urban and rural population of this size will be a costly and extensive exercise,” the submission stated.

"Council is endeavouring to meet all of its residents' needs but, with dam levels as low as five per cent and water sources expected to run out in the coming months without significant rain fall, water carting is the only viable option.”

During a special meeting, Councillor Rod Kelly said calling the drought a natural disaster was an essential part of SDRC's response.

"We need to stress that,” he said.

"That might not apply to all the regions responding but we certainly meet that criteria.”

A natural disaster is defined by the Disaster Management Act (2003) as "a serious disruption in a community caused by the impact of an event that requires a significant, coordinated response by the state and other entities to help the community recover from the disruption”.

Declaring a natural disaster could have far reaching impacts as a classification of Category B or C assistance could entitle residents to financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government and the Australian Tax Office, as well as affording "extraordinary” powers to emergency services personnel.