Incredible strength of tiny Queensland town
BOONAH is the little town that could. It's the sort of place that epitomises the saying; 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going'.
Just over an hour southwest of Brisbane, Boonah is in the Scenic Rim region which this month was added to Queensland's official drought impact zone.
Two-thirds of the state is now in drought, while many farmers in north Queensland not affected by the endless dry spell are still clawing their way back from February's devastating floods.
Third generation Boonah businessman Greg Maynard has seen the best and worst of the drought impact first hand.
Both local farmer and store owner, Mr Maynard has felt the drought's impact throughout the local community.
Trade at his shoe and drapery shop in High St - founded by his grandparents Jack and Ethol in 1944 - has suffered as customers, many of them local farmers, resort to only buying the essentials.
It's the same story at the Ritchies Supa IGA, where manager Peter Lee says spending is "needs based, people tend to wait for specials, buy more house brands, and are noticeably more conservative with their spending".
Several stores in town are closing down or up for sale.
Mr Maynard also runs cattle for his mum Maureen. Their herd is down to 80 head, half what it was. It's simply too costly to keep buying in feed.
Small bales of hay that use to cost $6 are now $11. Mr Maynard is supplementing his herd's feed with grain, something he hasn't done for 15 years.
"That's what happens when you only get four inches of rain in six months," he tells The Courier-Mail.
But in these difficult times, Boonah has rallied. Community groups have stood up to support those in need. And the country Queensland spirit has shone.
When The Courier-Mail speaks to Boonah District Chamber of Commerce secretary Margaret Fry, she is emblematic of the town's helpful nature.
She explains January, February and April have been either the driest or among the driest on record in the Boonah area.
"But this community is really supporting our farmers," Mrs Fry says.
She then lists some of the local groups that have raised money for recent flood and drought appeals to aid Queensland farmers:
- Boonah Rodeo Association and Fassifern Horse and Pony Club donated $10,000
- Boonah Country Markets raised more than $5000 though the Buy a Bale program
- Boonah District Chamber of Commerce donated $10,000 with the support of local businesses and the community through their Christmas Street Festival
- Harrisville Lions donated $5000
- Boonah Rotary Club $2500
- Boonah CWA branch donated about $2500
Federal Member Scott Buchholz is credited with securing $1 million from the Government to assist farmers after hail and wind destroyed corn and carrot crops around nearby Kalbar and Aratula in October last year. Hardship payments are now starting to reach farmers in the area.
Ritchies Supa IGA has raised $35,000 through its Community Benefit Card program for Boonah, and $180,000 for farmers nationally by increasing the price of milk.
"I am so proud to be a part of the Boonah community," Mrs Fry says.
"It is amazing what a small community can achieve, particularly when you consider we are now drought declared. We're a small community with a big heart."
Community groups, schools and businesses across Queensland are encouraged to dig deep for News Corp's Adopt a Farmer campaign to help drought and flood affected farmers.