FRUSTRATED Liverpool Plains Shire farmers have finally received the news they’ve been waiting for with the NSW government announcing the shire is now eligible for emergency drought-assistance measures.
Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson last Friday said the $14.6 million package had been expanded to include the Liverpool Plains, Mid-Western, Gloucester and Oberon local government areas.
Liverpool Plains Shire mayor Ian Lobsey said he was relieved the area had finally been recognised for extra assistance, after what had been a “frustrating” six-week wait.
The shire had been lobbying for access to the measures since Ms Hodgkinson visited the region in mid-February to announce the government’s initial $7.6 million package had been expanded to $14.6 million and extended to include an additional 20 local government areas.
While neighbouring shires and most across the region were included, Liverpool Plains was omitted, much to the council’s dismay.
“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,” Cr Lobsey said in February, saying it was ludicrous it should come down to “lines on a map”.
Last Friday, though, there was relief, with Cr Lobsey describing it as “wonderful news”, particularly the fact the assistance has been back-dated to February 1.
“It’s been a frustrating wait since the (February) announcement, when we were left bewildered after being excluded,” he said.
“There’s some real benefit (in the measures) for people who are badly affected ... and I know they’re out there, because I’ve had many farmers ringing me who are obviously really hurting.”
Cr Lobsey said last week’s rain provided some short-term relief, but there was still a long way to go.
Ms Hodgkinson said while the rain was welcome, the Regional Assistance Advisory Committee and Local Land Services would continue to closely monitor conditions and provide regular advice to the government.
“This drought has had disastrous impacts on rural and regional communities in NSW and in many cases it will take years to recover,” she said.
The emergency assistance measures include:
* up to $20,000 per producer in the form of transport assistance reimbursements;
* up to $30,000 per producer for emergency water infrastructure grants; and
* the waiving of Western Lands Lease payments, Local Land Services rates and Wild Dog Destruction Board rates for a 12-month period, where applicable.