Mayor explains where $1m drought funds will be spent
LOCKYER Valley mayor Tanya Milligan is a farmer’s daughter and said the current conditions are delaying plant crops, frustrating graziers and causing pain across the region.
“The reality is, if we don’t get some rain in the next six months, we are in dire trouble.”
She said most farmers were still optimistic the region would get some rain and the aquifers would be replenished.
“We’re a tough mob, and proud. I think the fact that so many are proud means that not many will put their hand up and ask for assistance,” she said.
“For our community, it is devastating and it is sad, because these farmers have invested everything into their farms.”
Cr Milligan said even though many women in the region would talk to each other about how tough it is, getting their husbands to apply for financial help was a step many wouldn’t take.
The Federal Government made $1 million in drought relief funding available to regional councils, including Lockyer Valley, through its Drought Communities Programme – Extension.
But the funds are restricted to community infrastructure projects and are not available for individuals.
Cr Milligan listed three projects the council had received approval for, none of which have any direct link to helping primary producers cope with drought.
“It was never intended to be a direct relief measure for drought-affected farmers. Unfortunately we’re not allowed to provide any of that assistance... to farmers,” she said.
Approved projects include the refurbishment of the shire hall, a path upgrade and work on a chapel at a local cemetery.
“It’s to stimulate local jobs,” Cr Milligan said.
Asked why the projects were not more directly aimed at helping the residents most affected by drought, Cr Milligan said the council could only propose projects within its core responsibilities.
“We had stakeholders come in and we asked them, ‘we’ve got this million dollars coming, how do you suggest for this to be spent?’
“For us, it would be great if the funding was less restrictive... and if the government would allow us to be trusted to better distribute that money as we see fit within our community.”
State Government funds of $10,800 were also received for community drought support.
“That was around community connection and resilience,” the mayor said, adding that one group used $400 to hold a night market.
Asked whether the council had discussed measures such as a levy to help drought- affected farmers, she said it had not.
“It affects everybody. It’s not just about farmers, it’s about our businesses in the CBD, and it comes back down to families as well,” she said.
“It’s just so broad reaching because if the farmers aren’t making any money then they’re not in town and buying anything from the businesses, then the businesses are affected as well.”