Desperate wait for a declaration

DROUGHT-BATTERED Tamworth and Gunnedah farmers have been offered a glimmer of hope amid reports the state government was on the brink of officially declaring the region “in drought”.

After intense lobbying by Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson, the Regional Advisory Assistance Committee (RAAC) this week fast-tracked plans to assess the area’s drought status, touring the Tamworth and Gunnedah local government areas on Monday.

NSW drought co-ordinator Tim Johnston, acting on behalf of the RAAC, confirmed to Mr Anderson yesterday that the region was “critical”.

He is expected to hand a report to NSW Primary Industries minister Katrina Hodgkinson late today and, if approved by the minister and cabinet, the area could be drought declared within weeks.

A drought declaration would unlock crucial funding for farmers, including transport of fodder subsidies.

Mr Anderson will meet with Ms Hodgkinson tomorrow  and ask her to also consider an increased diesel rebate and crop and pasture subsidies as part of any assistance package.

He will also urge the minister to tour the region first-hand.

“This drought is biting hard and it’s heading east fast,” Mr Anderson said.

“I’m trying to highlight to the minister how desperate it is here.

“Tim (Johnston) agrees the region is critical and believes we should be considered as bad as the other regions out west.”

The independent RAAC bases its assessments on a range of factors, including rainfall, soil moisture, pasture growth and seasonal conditions.

Meanwhile, Tamworth deputy mayor and Local Land Services (LLS) board candidate Russell Webb has called on the LLS to roll out a series of drought workshops in the district.

“I’ve called on the LLS appointed management to come and tell us what they can do for us,” Mr Webb said.

“Even some drought workshops on issues like supplementary feeding would be helpful.”

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