Drought sup­port avoids Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil

The Free Press (Corowa) - - FRONT PAGE -

Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil has been sidestepped by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s Drought Com­mu­ni­ties Pro­gram (DCP), miss­ing out on $1 mil­lion worth of cru­cial drought sup­port.

The Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment an­nounced $30 mil­lion in drought sup­port pay­ments will be made avail­able to farm­ing house­holds in the 81 el­i­gi­ble coun­cil ar­eas fac­ing hard­ship aris­ing from the im­pact of drought.

The pro­gram de­liv­ers sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits to tar­geted drought-af­fected re­gions of Aus­tralia and sup­ports lo­cal and com­mu­nity in­fra­struc­ture and other drought re­lief projects for com­mu­ni­ties im­pacted by drought.

Sig­nif­i­cant rain­fall at this time of the year is a rar­ity in the Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil re­gion. The 2018 win­ter pe­riod was de­scribed as Aus­tralia’s fifth-warmest on record ac­cord­ing to the Bu­reau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy (BOM), with NSW alone record­ing its eighth-dri­est win­ter on record and dri­est since 2002. Last month was of­fi­cially Aus­tralia’s dri­est ever Septem­ber.

Corowa had just 36.6 mil­lime­ters of rain in Oc­to­ber this year – noth­ing in the fi­nal 10 days of the month – com­pared to the 82.3 it wel­comed 12 months ago.

Lo­cal fire­fight­ers have also ex­pressed ma­jor con­cerns over the up­com­ing fire sea­son and are pre­par­ing for the worst, due to lack of rain­fall.

Farm­ers who at­tend the Corowa mar­ket have also no­ticed an in­crease in lamb prices this year due to the crip­pling im­pact of drought.

In­ad­e­quate and poorly dis­trib­uted rain­fall causes a fall in crop pro­duc­tion and farm­ers are faced with har­vests that are too small to both feed their fam­i­lies and ful­fill their other com­mit­ments.

The Lib­eral Na­tional Gov­ern­ment ex­tended the DCP to an­other 21 lo­cal coun­cils across Aus­tralia do­ing it tough, with the Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil yet again by­passed.

Fed­eral Min­is­ter for Re­gional Ser­vices Sen­a­tor Brid­get McKen­zie said that the DCP had been a vi­tal part of the re­sponse to the drought so far be­cause it recog­nised the flowon ef­fects of the tough times for farm­ers af­fect far more than just their own farm.

“We un­der­stand that there are con­se­quences for ev­ery­one in re­gional towns as the drought hits hard. The farm­ers are the first to feel it through high feed prices and less re­turn on their crops but the costs then flow through the whole com­mu­nity,” Min­is­ter Brid­get McKen­zie said.

“It’s a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties by the Lib­eral Na­tional Gov­ern­ment and it’s tar­geted di­rectly at the bot­tom line of re­gional economies by bring­ing in lo­cal coun­cils to de­ploy the fund­ing. Lo­cal gov­ern­ment knowl­edge is crit­i­cal to en­sur­ing our fund­ing hits the right spot, and gives farm­ers and busi­ness own­ers alike con­fi­dence they can re­bound when the drought breaks.”

Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil Gen­eral Man­ager Adrian But­ler said coun­cil was dis­ap­pointed to again not have been in­cluded in the lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas an­nounced for ad­di­tional fund­ing, fol­low­ing the re­cent an­nounce­ment.

“We have been in con­tact with our Fed­eral Mem­ber, Susan Leys’ of­fice, back when the first an­nounce­ments were made to some NSW coun­cils months ago, to push the case to un­lock fund­ing for our com­mu­ni­ties,” he said.

“We un­der­stand the gov­ern­ment has some very tech­ni­cal rain­fall de­fi­ciency cal­cu­la­tions, and this leads to which coun­cil ar­eas re­ceive this lat­est sup­port, but the frost event in Au­gust has not been con­sid­ered in these cal­cu­la­tions to our knowl­edge.

“That com­bined with the gen­eral lack of rain­fall across most of the coun­cil area is hav­ing a pro­found ef­fect on our land­hold­ers, pro­duc­ers and in­dus­tries and we have been very vo­cal about that.

“Ob­vi­ously Coun­cil is dis­ap­pointed to not be in­cluded in fund­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to date, but we will con­tinue to ad­vo­cate with our lo­cal mem­ber, not only for our farm­ers who are fac­ing vary­ing chal­lenges from farm to farm, but for di­rectly im­pacted small busi­nesses and farm em­ploy­ees who will suf­fer greatly from the lack of har­vest ac­tiv­ity this sum­mer.

“Go­ing for­ward, de­spite again be­ing over­looked, we are con­fi­dent that from con­tin­ued rep­re­sen­ta­tions, Susan Ley will con­tinue to lobby hard to work to­wards un­lock­ing fur­ther fund­ing for our res­i­dents.”

In ex­tend­ing the pro­gram to an ex­tra 21 lo­cal coun­cils, the level of need - us­ing rain­fall de­fi­ciency data from the Bu­reau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy, pop­u­la­tion and in­dus­try data (re­liance on agri­cul­ture) - to as­sess the over­all eco­nomic im­pact of the drought in the re­gion was ex­am­ined.

Lo­cal fourth gen­er­a­tion farmer and south­ern NSW Meat Re­search Coun­cil com­mit­tee mem­ber Richard Ham from Moama, NSW, has been left won­der­ing if the elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the NSW side of the Mur­ray Val­ley at both state and fed­eral lev­els are be­ing taken se­ri­ously in the halls of Can­berra.

“Water is the only so­lu­tion to the drought cri­sis and long term drought proof­ing. If we can’t make it rain then we need ac­cess to the am­ple sup­ply of water cur­rently in stor­age dams to grow food, in­clud­ing fod­der for stock,” Mr Ham said af­ter his re­gion was also ig­nored.

The fund­ing al­lows coun­cils to choose projects that will have the big­gest im­pact.

David Martin OAM, Sec­re­tary and Neville Bain­bridge, Ruther­glen RSL Pres­i­dent, are both thrilled with the Car­lyle Cross which will be un­veiled on Re­mem­brance Day.

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