Edge of reason

Drought package madness: farmer gets help but neighbour misses out

LIVERPOOL Plains farmers have demanded answers from the state government after the shire was snubbed in this week’s drought rescue package.

In a move that has left producers and local leaders stunned, the drought-battered shire was not included on a list of 20 councils in the region – stretching from Bogan Shire to the Queensland border – eligible for assistance under the expanded $14.6 million Emergency Drought Assistance Package.

Liverpool Plains mayor Ian Lobsey described the omission as “bewildering”, saying the area was just as ravaged by drought as the local government areas surrounding it.

Meanwhile, 74-year-old cattle farmer Noel Edlington, whose Tambar Springs property straddles the Gunnedah and Liverpool Plains shires, said it was farcical his neighbour a few hundred metres away could be deemed in drought but not him.

“It just astounds me how someone could come up with this decision,” Mr Edlington said.

“Just the fact they can draw a line on a map and decide that means we’re not in drought.”

He said nine of his property’s 12 dams were “bone dry”, with the other three drying up quickly.

Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson has moved to quell concerns, telling The Leader late yesterday the Liverpool Plains was “expected to go through in the next round”.

“They’ve reached the trigger point for additional assessment,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

“I can’t predict exactly what is going to happen, but the Regional Assistance Advisory Committee will look at it.”

But Cr Lobsey said the shire had waited long enough for a helping hand.

“It’s unbelievable, the situation is no different here than elsewhere. People are running out of feed and some are running out of water, and when that happens we’re in real trouble,” he said.

“I can’t work out why we haven’t been assessed yet.”

For others, like farmer and Gunnedah councillor David Quince, the oversight is further evidence the drought-declaration system is broken.

“Why rural producers have to go through the torment and emotional upheaval of having to catalogue the drought to the government is beyond me,” he said.

This week’s drought package included $7 million for 20 of the region’s shires, and grants for transporting feed and stock and building new water infrastructure.

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