Mayor ex­plains where $1m drought funds will be spent

Gatton Star - - NEWS -

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.”

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