Featured News JCU hub to fight the effect and impact of drought

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Tue, 20 Apr 2021

JCU hub to fight the effect and impact of drought

Drought hub director Dan Christie speaking at the launch, with Cairns Institute director Stewart Lockie, Deputy PM Michael McCormack and Minister David Littleproud standing alongside.
(L-R) Cairns Institute director Stewart Lockie, Deputy PM Michael McCormack, Minister David Littleproud, Drought Hub director Dan Christie.

A Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub will be established at James Cook University in Cairns, bringing together Northern Queensland farmers, agribusinesses, communities innovation leaders and researchers to help fight the effect and impact of future droughts.

Dan Christie, Head of Engineering at JCU, will be the hub’s director. He said JCU has been selected to be the centre of the Tropical North Queensland Hub, one of eight drought resilience and adoption hubs to receive $8 million funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund and over $18 million co-funding from JCU’s consortium partners.

“We will work with local farmers, supply chain businesses, and First Nations custodians of the land to develop economic, social and environmental resilience against the impact of drought,” said Mr Christie.

JCU Connect Director, Rochelle Finlay, said the TNQ Hub will lead transformational change in the way our communities become drought resilient.

“We’re going to draw together world-class research and translation expertise, professional business development, commercialisation and innovation expertise, and JCU’s enduring partnerships with stakeholders to make this happen,” said Ms Finlay.

“Our Hub will empower, support and enable TNQ communities to build drought resilience. Our stakeholders will co-design solutions and shape the decisions we collectively make, informed by the practical on-ground application of research,” said Mr Christie.

He said agricultural sectors the TNQ Hub will serve include Sugar, Beef, Dairy, Vegetables, Citrus and Tropical Fruit.

“Nearly 30,000 people work in agriculture, forestry or fishing in tropical north Queensland – accounting for up to 30 per cent of jobs outside major cities and towns.

“But our climate is changing and it’s expected we will have hotter and more frequent hot days along with increased rainfall variability. It is essential that we prepare for this change if these industries are to survive, thrive and expand,” said Mr Christie.

He said the JCU drought hub is designed from the outset to be responsive, to learn from experience, and to adapt to changing priorities, needs and circumstances.

“The first order of business will be to expand identification of end-user and partner needs and opportunities, so we can build on hub partners’ existing capabilities and programs,” said Mr Christie.

He said JCU has long-established relationships with drought-affected or drought-exposed stakeholders including major farming operations, regional organisations, private businesses and intermediaries such as Indigenous councils – many of which employ JCU alumni.

“The breadth and depth of the relationships will enable the TNQ Drought Hub to harness an enviable range of skills, knowledge and resources - not only to address drought resilience but to implement sustainable measures that will be proof against the impacts of other potential threats such as floods, bushfires and pandemics,” said Mr Christie.

JCU Campus Director, Dr David Craig said it is another example of the university expanding its footprint in the Cairns region. “We’re working with and supporting our local communities with an important challenge. We are thankful to the Australian Government for their support,” said Dr Craig.