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Our Purpose and Outcomes

The objective of the PGPA Act is to provide a coherent system of governance and accountability for public resources, with an emphasis on planning, performance and reporting.

Our performance in achieving our purpose is measured against the Drought and Flood Agency Corporate Plan 2019–20 – 2022–23 and the Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements 2019–20. The relationship between these is shown below.

Relationship between the Drought and Flood Agency Corporate Plan 2019–20 – 2022–23 and the Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements 2019–20.

Relationship between the Drought and Flood Agency Corporate Plan 2019–20 – 2022–23 and the Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements 2019–20.

Summary of Performance

Table 2: Summary of Performance

Performance Criteria

Result

Coordinate the provision of assistance and support to flood-impacted individuals, families, primary producers, businesses and communities to improve their circumstances, by working in collaboration with a range of stakeholders across the Australian and Queensland governments.

Achieved

Provide whole-of-government strategic leadership and advice on the government’s drought response.

Partially Achieved

Increase awareness of existing Commonwealth support and assistance for drought-affected communities and North Queensland flood-affected communities.

Achieved

Performance Measure

Result

PM1) The Agency provides leadership to the coordination of assistance to affected communities.

Achieved

PM2) Affected communities utilise Australian Government assistance to contribute to their recovery.

Achieved

PM3) Impacted parties report a heightened level of awareness for Australian Government assistance.

Achieved

PM4) Affected communities report a heightened level of awareness for ways in which they could be better prepared in relation to future droughts and natural disasters.

Achieved

PM5) The Agency consults with stakeholders to understand their experiences, requirements and concerns.

Achieved

PM6) Stakeholders report that the Agency contributed to better outcomes through collaboration in design and/or delivery of Australian Government assistance.

Achieved

PM7) The Agency delivers timely and relevant advice to government in line with commitments.

Partially Achieved

Performance Snapshot

Drought and Flood Performance Snapshot, as at 30 June 2020

Analysis of Performance

Drought and natural disasters are an ongoing feature in the Australian landscape and much of the Agency’s work is twofold—assisting with the immediate response and longer-term recovery, and supporting those impacted to be better prepared for future events.

These annual performance statements demonstrate that the Agency has made substantial contributions towards its purpose in 2019–20, despite a challenging operating environment due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, it was a formative year for the Agency, which included an expanded remit to include drought from December 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated impacts of flood and drought and the recovery efforts in regional communities. It has also affected how the Coordinator-General, Agency staff and the RRO network engaged with drought and flood affected communities. Where travel was restricted, community engagement continued over the phone, via social media, the Agency newsletter, using video conference and through regular communiques.

In relation to the Agency itself, a Pandemic Plan was implemented to ensure the continuity of its operations. The Agency also worked closely with relevant government agencies at all levels and other stakeholders to ensure the needs and concerns of rural and regional communities continued to be heard.

Despite these challenges, the Agency was able to deliver on two of three performance criteria and seven of the eight performance measures. The criterion and measure not met were a direct result of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and we have provided details in the analysis of the individual measures and targets on the following pages.

Our key achievements and contribution towards our purpose in 2019–20 includes the following performance highlights.

NATIONAL LEADERSHIP AND COORDINATION

It has been 18 months since the 2019 North Queensland flood event and the Agency finalised a blueprint for the region’s long-term recovery and future prosperity. Following extensive consultation with individuals, businesses, communities and local government affected by the flood event, the Agency developed the 2019 Queensland Monsoon Trough After the flood: a strategy for long-term recovery.

The strategy provides a blueprint that all interested parties (both government and non-government) can use to guide investment to support longer-term recovery and strengthen resilience of the flood-impacted regions.

The year 2019 was Australia’s warmest and driest year ever recorded and, unfortunately, the current drought will not be the last. The Agency plays a pivotal role in providing advice on Australian Government policies and programs, to continuously improve the way in which drought assistance is provided. In 2019–20, the Agency undertook a review into the government’s drought response, which included looking into the 25 measures that made up more than $8 billion in assistance and concessional loans since 2018–19. The Agency reviewed the consistency of the measures against key frameworks, such as the National Drought Agreement (NDA), the Australian Government’s Drought Response, Resilience and Preparedness Plan and international principles. We also reviewed the effectiveness of the suite of measures as a whole, and identified the ways in which the government could strengthen its support, which will be progressed in 2020–21.

COLLABORATION, COOPERATION AND ENGAGEMENT

The Agency has a demonstrated track record of effectively coordinating across all Australian Government departments, establishing and maintaining relationships with state recovery agencies, local governments, key stakeholders, charities and local community organisations to provide a streamlined, timely and well targeted on-the-ground response.

Communities are central to the recovery process and our model of on-the-ground engagement has been crucial. Communities need to be able to trust the government is listening and will continue to turn up. This is not your usual government organisation; the Agency has been set up to be agile and responsive to people of regional Australia, to cut through red tape, and stand shoulder to shoulder with the flood and drought affected regions until we come out the other side.

Through our extensive community engagement, we have been able to connect people quickly to the support they need. At 30 June 2020, approximately $780 million had been paid directly to individuals, businesses, communities, and local and state governments as part of the government’s North Queensland Flood Recovery Package.

In February 2020, the Agency established a national network of RROs, who have been recruited from, and are based in, communities across Australia to serve as champions for their region. RROs work directly with impacted individuals, businesses and communities to facilitate access to the support and information needed to help them prosper.

Communities have benefited by having representatives of the Agency come to them to listen, see the impacts firsthand, and have a direct line of communication back to government, providing advice on what is needed most in terms of support. To date, the Agency has established open and effective working relationships in approximately 200 Local Government Areas. Building and strengthening these relationships has assisted the Agency gather information to inform proposed plans for long-term recovery and develop strategies to enable communities to be better positioned to respond to future drought and Monsoon Trough events.

Stories from the road

Ken Bridle and Hannah Wandel

June 2020

The Coordinator-General and RRO team met with Ken Bridle on his Poll Hereford cattle property at Genoa, Victoria. Ken’s property was affected by the bushfires after three years of drought. He has 320 acres and normally runs a couple of hundred breeders, but is down to 120 head. Ken is a fifth-generation farmer but says the fires “pulled the rug right out from under him”. During discussions, Agency staff let Ken know about the Australian Government assistance available to him, including Regional Investment Corporation loans, which Ken hadn’t heard about. Information was provided and contact details given so Ken could work out what might best suit his needs. When the RROs next pass by, they will drop in to see how Ken is going.

Performance Snapshot— The Harrington Family

The Harrington Family
January 2020

Almost a year after the February 2019 flood event, remnants of the monsoon that devastated parts of North Queensland remain carved into the land across Brinard cattle station.

“Entire roads were washed away, along with paddocks, fences, water infrastructure, and of course many of our cattle,” said Brinard station owner, Scott Harrington.

“We will be feeling the impacts for years. Parts of the property are badly eroded, and in other places we’ve lost valuable topsoil which would otherwise be thick with Mitchell grass by now.”

Located 140 km northwest of Julia Creek, Brinard is home to Scott and Gina Harrington and their son Beau. The property has been held by four generations of Harrington graziers, and currently runs a mix of Brahman cross cattle.

Having survived through years of drought, the arrival of soaking February rain was a joyful occasion, but after four days of relentless downpour, the sense of elation switched to anguish.

“The freezing winds and low temperatures that followed were devastating for cattle, as well as native animals, with many perishing in the wind and rain,” said Beau. “We were lucky enough that in the few rain breaks I was able to get up in my gyrocopter and push some of the cattle to higher ground. Without that, we certainly would have lost more.”

But for the Harringtons, the impact of the storm went well beyond Brinard. Another son, Dudley, and his wife Thea live on Werrina, closer to Julia Creek, which was also badly impacted by flooding. Another family property, Alexmere, south of Nelia, was widely inundated by flood waters and suffered very high stock losses.

Late last year Agency staff visited Brinard to see the impacts of the flood firsthand. The team was joined by Rangelands Officer, Anne Alison from Southern Gulf NRM, a community-based not-for-profit company providing natural resource management services in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria region.

Rangeland officers like Anne have been working closely with graziers and managers to determine the extent of the impact of the flood and assist with remediation and recovery strategies for soil, pastures, livestock production and business management.

As part of its post-flood education work, the Australian Government and Queensland Government, through the Southern Gulf NRM, jointly funded erosion control and pasture remediation workshops, and more recently, herd efficiency and grazing business management workshops.

“Brinard is a property that implements excellent grazing management practices, which were obvious during the drought years and leading up to the flood,” said Anne.

"If good management practices had not been implemented prior to the flood the property would have suffered much more damage than it did.

“The early reduction of livestock numbers during dry times meant that the land was in a healthier condition to be able to withstand some of the impacts of the floods.”

Despite the need to build up stock numbers and generate cashflow, the Harringtons are focused on allowing flood-impacted pastures to recover. This is particularly important during and immediately following the wet season as it allows pasture plants to fully establish and go to seed so that they can survive through to the next wet season.

The family is also using earth-moving machines on the more heavily damaged areas to prevent further erosion during the coming wet season.

Like many other properties in the area, fencing is another big issue on Brinard. During the flood clean-up, many graziers discovered that groups of cattle had clustered in paddock corners searching for warmth but ended up being trapped and unable to escape.

“As part of managing our pastures we will put some thought into redesigning fence lines and opening up paddocks so that in the event of another heavy flood the cattle will have somewhere to go,” said Beau.

“By the end of this, we will have fixed or replaced around 120 km of fencing, so it’s a good opportunity to make improvements where we can.”

The Harringtons are one of many grazing families in the McKinlay Shire to receive the Special Disaster Assistance Recovery Grant of $75,000. They have since applied for the Restocking, Replanting and On-farm Infrastructure Grant of up to $400,000, but will wait for the results of the next wet season to determine how best to invest the grant money.

“We were very happy with the initial recovery response and the speed with which the $75,000 grant was made available,” said Scott.

“It gave everybody an injection of funds when we needed it most. We are all part of the same community out here and we made sure that the recovery grant money went through as many local hands as possible.”

The staff at the National Drought and Flood Agency would like to thank Scott, Gina and Beau Harrington for accepting our request to visit Brinard station, and Anne Alison at Southern Gulf NRM for sharing her time and local knowledge with the Agency.

Performance Snapshot— Drought Community Outreach

February 2020

The Australian Government is continuing to respond to the needs of drought-affected farming communities right across Australia.

In February 2020, the government announced a partnership with Rotary Australia World Community Service (Rotary) to provide $5 million for the Drought Community Outreach program1

With the support of the Drought and Flood Agency, Rotary signed its grant agreement and was provided the one-off ad hoc grant in June 2020 to start providing $500 vouchers to eligible drought-impacted households experiencing financial hardship. These vouchers are being distributed across the nation to help put food on the table, buy school supplies and other essential goods. The vouchers also have a flow-on impact, ensuring funds are spent in local shops and with suppliers to generate much needed economic stimulus.

As COVID-19 restrictions are progressively lifted, the Agency will also work with Rotary under the program to run outreach events in drought impacted communities—bringing together all levels of government, charities, community groups and peak bodies to offer support. Rotary will use part of the $5 million grant to cater at these events, while also providing the vouchers to affected individuals

1 The Drought Community Outreach Program policy entity is the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications and the administering entity is the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. The Drought and Flood Agency is a co-sponsor of the grant.