New Director for the TNQ Drought Hub
The Tropical North Queensland Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub has announced the appointment of David Phelps as its first ongoing Director.
“David will oversee the TNQ Drought Hub’s work on research, development, extension, adoption and commercialisation,” Interim Director Dan Christie said.
“It’s a challenging role and an important one. We’re very pleased to be welcoming someone with David’s skills, experience and reputation to lead the Hub.”
Dr Phelps was formerly Manager, Regional Agribusiness Strategy, with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. In that role, and as the founding Chair of the Western Queensland Drought Appeal, he has been addressing the concept of resilience during the extended drought that began in western Queensland in 2013.
Dr Phelps grew up on the family wool, beef, grain and pulse farm in north-western New South Wales.
He is the current President of the International Rangelands Continuing Committee and a member of the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists committee, which is close to seeing the United Nations declare 2026 the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists.
“I’m really looking forward to working with a great team at JCU and the TNQ Drought Hub, as well as stakeholders who work with the Hub and its various Nodes,” Dr Phelps said.
“I’m keen to link the lived experiences and priorities of people across tropical north Queensland with the scientific and training expertise that JCU is well known for, to address the north’s on-going and future droughts.
“Droughts are a natural part of Australia’s weather, and we need to be increasingly innovative in our responses to the issues they create for agriculture, communities, and our regions.”
Dr Phelps helped to establish a number of drought resilience projects through the Drought Climate Adaptation Program, and worked behind the scenes with Longreach Rotary to form the Western Queensland Drought Committee, delivering over $5 million in direct drought support to graziers and town businesses facing hardship since 2015.
Mr Christie said Dr Phelps has supported some exciting projects in western Queensland, including the Barcaldine Renewable Economic Zone (BREZ), led by Sunshot Industries, and the Blackall Woollen Mill proposal led by QWool.
“A highlight for David in this role has been developing the Queensland Sheep and Goat Meat Strategy, contributing to the AgForce-led Blueprint to Enhance the Growth of the Queensland Sheep and Goat Industries, and establishing the Rural Agricultural Development sheep and goat industry grants program,” Mr Christie said.
The TNQ Drought Hub is one of 8 hubs across Australia supporting farmers and communities to become more drought-resilient. The Australian Government is contributing $8 million over four years to the Hub through the Future Drought Fund.