DESCRIBING the current drought as far from over, Upper Hunter MP and Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture Michael Johnsen today welcomed an additional $355 million in emergency drought support to be announced in next Tuesday's state budget.
Joining with New England MP Barnaby Joyce, representatives of Local Land Services (LLS) and local farmers at the LLS offices at Scone TAFE, Mr Johnsen said the additional funding would bring the NSW Government's investment in drought support to more than $1.8 billion.
"We know that in the Upper Hunter and New England areas it's been a very very tough time and in many areas it's getting worse," he said.
"And what we need to do is to continue to respond as the drought lingers on."
Mr Johnsen said the funding would fast track investment in regional infrastructure to stimulate local economies.
"There will be opportunities for councils and sporting groups to apply for money to build things," he said.
"And we know that for every dollar that you spend on building something there's a flow on effect of somewhere between 3 and 5 dollars."
Mr Johnsen said the government has also streamlined the application process for receiving the assistance to make it easier for rural families.
"If you have applied for anything in the past, you wont need to go through that whole application process again," he added.
"So it will be a lot easier compared to what it was previously."
One of the key aspects is also additional funds for mental health, with the local MP sympathising with the fact the impacts of drought have a very deep and heavy emotional affect on people.
"We are side-by-side right with you and we are going to do everything we can to support you," Mr Johnsen said.
"We need to support people, we need to support activities and we need to generate economic activity hence the Drought Stimulus Package that we are putting in place of $170 million."
He also thanked local LLS staff for the role they play in supporting the community and local farming community in particular.
NSW Farmers also welcomed the boost to NSW Government drought assistance with President James Jackson saying while farmers are bearing the brunt of ongoing dry conditions, the severity and long-term nature of this drought is a having a significant impact on rural towns and communities.
"Towns are feeling the economic and social impact of drought, so the announcements today are welcome news and will have long term benefits," Mr Jackson said.
"NSW Farmers flagged the need to support regional communities with water and local infrastructure during our FOCUS election campaign, and some of the 'shovel ready' projects announced today were raised at our pre- election forums.
"It is critical that the government engage local employment and contractors for these projects to take full advantage of the economic stimulus that they will provide."
Mr Jackson said the NSW Government has also recognised the need to extend on-farm drought support with an extra $185 million for measures such as transport subsidies for stock, fodder and water and the waiving of Local Land Services rates and fixed water charges.
The extended drought assistance measures for 2019/20 include:
- $185 million for on-farm Emergency Drought Relief Package support measures including transport cost rebates for fodder, stock and water and the waiving of annual land rates
- $36 million in funds to support rural and regional communities including mental health, sporting grants, money for pre-schools and skilled pathway opportunities
- $55 million in the Emergency Drought Relief Package for water infrastructure projects, emergency water carting, improving town drinking water, reducing water wastage and rebates for water licences.
In addition to the Emergency Drought Relief package, the NSW Government has announced a new $170 million Drought Stimulus Package to help stimulate rural and regional economies impacted by the drought.
For more detail on the government's drought support measures visit www.droughthub.nsw.gov.au