NSW Government's pre-budget announcement sees drought support funds doubled

SUPPORT ANNOUNCED: Local farmer Paul Metcalf at his drought-stricken property “Belah” at Gundy in March.
SUPPORT ANNOUNCED: Local farmer Paul Metcalf at his drought-stricken property “Belah” at Gundy in March.

FOLLOWING meetings earlier this month at drought-affected areas of the state, including talks with local farmers at Scone property “Yarramac”, Deputy Premier John Barilaro has announced the government is doubling the amount of financial support on offer for drought-affected communities.

Mr Barilaro joined with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair at a Dubbo farm today to announce a $284 million boost to its relief package including funding for mental health, key infrastructure and streamlined kangaroo management.

The extra funding will be allocated in Tuesday's State Budget and will go towards the government’s Farm Innovation Fund.

The program will be expanded to include new loans of up to $50,000 that will be interest-free for seven years, to allow producers to bring in fodder and grain, to move livestock, or install key water infrastructure including troughs, underground pipes or water-saving technology.

The fund will also be extended to enable producers to collect and store genetics in a “bio-bank” that would otherwise be lost during destocking.

The budget will also include more than $4 million in mental health support for communities facing natural disaster and drought; $25 million to build and operate three new Doppler radar weather stations in the Central West and Far West to improve weather forecasting; a new kangaroo management plan to reduce kangaroo numbers in drought-hit areas and up to $5 million to help local councils repair dirt roads damaged by the temporary access for heavy vehicles carrying feed, water and livestock.

Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen has welcomed the news.

“Some of these relief measures emerged from recent talks held in Scone between myself, the Deputy Premier and local famers from the Upper Hunter Shire,” he said.

“Our farmers are continuing to tell us that these loans are one of the best measures available, which is why we have decided to double the funding available, taking the fund’s total value to $500 million.

“We know the forecast is poor so we will continue to re-assess measures, and as a member of this government I will continue to talk to our Upper Hunter electorate communities every step of the way.”

There was no mention of bringing back formal drought declarations, which local farmers say, at the very least, would give much-needed moral support to those on the land and let them know they aren’t alone.