PRESSURE continues to mount on the minister and the state government to pour more money into the bucket for water infrastructure rebates for drought-stricken farmers.
National Party MP Adam Marshall has joined the chorus of criticism saying that turning the tap off on applications before the deadline had even arrived wasn’t fair or even honourable – and he’s calling on Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson to honour the June 30 deadline.
Mr Marshall said it was not fair on farmers to be left in the lurch “five minutes to midnight” just because the funding bucket was empty before then. Many northern farmers are furious that those water infrastucture rebates – for this financial year and next – have dried up within days of the NSW Budget being handed down.
They say they’ve followed government strategic advice to droughtproof their properties by installing water infrastructure – yet money promised as rebates for this financial year until June 30 was quashed a week early.
It comes on the back of news, in early June, that Local Land Services rates within NSW will now only be waived for six months, not the original 12 months as announced.
The NSW Budget had included $13 million to support the rollout of the new national drought program from July 1, but days later Mrs Hodgkinson said even though $8 million had been allocated for 2014-15 for those emergency rebates, those for that financial year had already been almost fully subscribed.
NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson said farmers had spent money in good faith and, in some cases, gone into debt, thinking they’d be eligible for the rebate and still had until June 30 to apply for it – and now the government had gone back on its word.
“If the government has budgetary issues then that’s the government’s issue,” she said. “The farmers are being told the solution lies in droughtproofing their properties, yet they’re not being allowed to do it.”