Drought fund wel­comed, but more needed

The Tatura Guardian - - Front Page -

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.’’

Jaala Pul­ford

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