Primary interest: Speakers at the forum, state Rabobank manager Brad James, Elder Blackall manager Daven Vohland and QRAA program manager John Rossberg, had plenty to say about diverse income streams.Twenty years ago, when Daven Vohland first lived in Blackall, a lot more shops were open, selling a range of goods.

The Elders branch manager told the final Grow Queensland forum that while there was finally a glimmer of optimism back, thanks to rain, diversification was the key to regrowing Blackall and other western towns.

“We’ve done well out of check fences. Cattle are great but to put more people back here, we’ve got to have more sheep, and tourism,” he said.

His words were echoed by Blackall-Tambo mayor and Tambo grazier Andrew Martin, who said people couldn’t get more efficient; they could just be more productive, and that would be achieved by fencing initiatives.

“Our place went from 7 per cent of lambs to 70 per cent, and from 247 dogs in two years to 4 dogs in two years.

“As a council we are working hard to ensure fencing initiatives keep coming.”

Fellow grazier Rick Keogh, who, along with wife Jenny, was one of the first in the region to identify a need for greater government investment in check fencing measures, agreed that productivity was the key.

“There’s a healthy future in wool, but between roos and dogs, we estimate our productivity is down 50 per cent.

“Governments give us freight subsidies but that’s treating symptoms –we need to be more productive from the start.”

He called on governments to work for primary producers, not against them.

“The expertise in rural industries is here. Governments should belistening to us.”

Forum panelist Brad James, Rabobank’s state manager,said the message was loud and clear, that communities have solutions within them.

Continuing the infrastructure theme was a question from Top Country nutritionist Susie Doyle, who pointed out that a lot of wool-related infrastructure was falling apart thanks to many years of disuse.

QRAA’s John Rossberg was quick to point out that sustainability loans were part of the portfolio of support they offered.

“We’re seeing a lot of activity, particularlyaround restocking,” he said. “There’s a sense of confidence emerging, which means that people are willing to think about things in different ways.”

Even Dr Clare Walker was seeing a change for the better in dealings with patients, saying her husband David specialised in mental health for primary producers and related industries.

“Things are starting to turn around –David can see it in patients and their ability to care for themselves.”

Rick Keogh summed up the feeling of many when he said it was important to be able to dream.

“Drought stops you from doing that, but when you wake up, you’ve got to have something to aspire to.”

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