Drought fund welcomed, but more needed
Program, technical and decisionmaking support for farms and increased mental health support services.
But Victorian Nationals’ leader Peter Walsh said council rate relief should be part of assistance measures.
Ms Pulford believed the package would support families impacted by drought and build resilience in areas impacted by record low rainfall and climate change.
‘‘We know our farmers are resilient, capable and innovative, but we need to make sure the support you need is there and that no-one goes it alone,’’ Ms Pulford said.
A statement from Mr Walsh’s office said while the drought package announced would ‘‘take some of the pressure off farmers and their families’’, it urged the government ‘‘to go one step further’’.
‘‘Farmers in East Gippsland and northern Victoria have told the Liberal Nationals repeatedly in recent weeks that relief on shire rates would be a great help, and we passed that message on to Daniel Andrews in a letter earlier this week,’’ the statement said.
‘‘In our letter, we also gave the Premier our assurance that the Liberal Nationals would provide any support needed during the caretaker period to deliver further help for our farmers.’’
The Guardian understands the Opposition’s proposal would involve the Victorian Government providing the rates subsidy, and working with councils to apply it to farmers’ rates.
Concerns have in recent weeks been heard locally about the jump in property valuations underpinning rises to agricultural rates.
The VFF welcomed the expanded drought relief measures, but said relief from fixed-term costs, such as council rates, should also be addressed.
Mr Harriott supported the expanded package, among any that offered drought relief.
He said if the government was being called on to ensure the response package provided farm rate relief, ‘‘then that’s something that could be considered’’.
But he urged caution if councils were to provide rate relief, pointing to ‘‘the fact that rate capping has been in play for several years’’ with costs ‘‘associated with running a council being well above the restricted rate capping income we receive’’.
Mr Harriott stressed the council would be hard pressed to foot the bill for agricultural rates concessions, stressing a ‘‘further reduction to the farm rate would only necessitate a greater burden to residential, commercial and industrial’’ categories, the latter two of which were, ‘‘for a fair part, related to agricultural businesses anyway.’’