THE NSW Deputy Premier flew in to Tamworth on Sunday to see the drought-stricken conditions local farmers are dealing with first hand.
John Barliaro, who came to the region at the request of Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson, said the drought had reached a crisis point.
“There’s no question the drought’s kicking in and causing havoc for local farmers,” the NSW Nationals’ leader said, while gazing over a dusty farm near Duri.
“As I flew in, it was clear the place hasn’t seen a drop of rain.
“I’m out here to have a look, listen to what locals are saying, and talk to them about what they want to see in terms of government support.”
The NSW government recently announced farmers could get access to a $20,000 loan, interest free for the first two years.
However, some farmers have criticised the loan, saying it wouldn’t even cover freighting costs for a month.
Mr Barilaro plans to take the concerns of local landholders back to the government and see what other assistance can be provided.
“My job here today is just to listen,” he said.
“I’m not an expert, these guys are feeling it on the ground and my job is to get that message back to the government.”
One landholder told Mr Barilaro he’d be forced to drill a new bore, after the drought turned a dam that’s never gone dry in to a dusty hole in the ground.
Mr Anderson there was no doubt the situation was “extremely desperate”.
“People don’t realise how bad it is until someone comes along, kicks the dust and talks to farmers first hand,” Mr Anderson said.
“I spoke to farmer this morning who said he hasn’t seen it this dry in 30 or 40 years.
“There are some farmers who are being forced to put livestock down because they can no longer feed them and they can’t get them off their place.”
“I really feel for the farmers that are struggling. That’s why I’ve asked John Barilaro to come to Tamworth and to listen to farmers and look at what we can do to further assist through drought assistance. There is assistance already on the table, but we want to see how we can do that better.”
Nundle cattle farmer John Syl is preparing for a “long hard winter”, and said the current conditions were “by far the driest” he’d ever seen.
“And going off what the long-time locals are saying, it’s just about the driest it’s been in the last 50 years,” Mr Syl said.
“Even the little falls of rain that you do get do very little good.
“Until you get those consistent falls that link up together, you’re really stuck.”
Mr Syl is down to less than a third of the cattle he would normal run.
“We’ve sent nearly 1200 up to Queensland on agistment and we’ll have more going away this week,” he said.
“It’s a very difficult time.”
Loomberah farmer Kevin Tongue said the situation at a crisis point.
“It’s desperate, the worst I have seen it in my life time,” Mr Tongue said.
“The feed and water situation is getting drastically low. We’ve had people ringing up and asking for hay, but we’ve had to limit our sales.”
He said the $20,000 interest free for two years package was a “great response”, but wants the government to investigate a stock movement subsidy and with a water rebate system.
“Farmers don’t want another loan,” Mr Tongue said.
“A freight rate subsidy and a stock movement subsidy would be really helpful to a lot of farmers.”
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