National Party members call for drought subsidies, not loans

PARTY TIME: The NSW Nationals will meet in Cowra for the party's annual state conference starting on Thursday.
PARTY TIME: The NSW Nationals will meet in Cowra for the party's annual state conference starting on Thursday.

TAMWORTH Nationals say there should be immediate drought relief available, rather than more loans, with animal welfare now at stake.

National Party members from around the state will converge on Cowra tomorrow for the annual state conference, just as the NSW government released a deluge of drought funding in the upcoming budget.

The Tamworth branch has pushed an “urgency motion” for debate at the conference calling for immediate support.

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The state government pledged $250 million into the Farm Innovation Fund, giving farmers access one-off loans of up to $50,000, interest free for seven years, to bring in fodder and grain to sustain stock.

“If we had a fire go through, there’d be immediate disaster relief, but drought creeps-up and takes a long time to recover from and this drought is the worst in anybody's memory,” Tamworth branch secretary Liz Coxhead said.

“There needs to be immediate funds available, subsidies, not loans.

“There needs to be help to get stock to agistment and back again, to buy fodder and water, animal welfare now at stake.”

It’s not yet known if the motion will be debated at the state conference.

She said the branch was also calling for changes to the  way drought areas were determined in NSW.

“The west-side of Tamworth is in drought onset, but the east-side has been drought declared for six weeks,” Mrs Coxhead said.

She said the drought declaration could effect when people could apply for loans that are available.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro and the Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair visited Dubbo today to announce the new drought funding and measures.

“We know the drought is hitting our farmers hard but we want to reassure communities that we are doing everything we can to make sure the right help is available at the right time,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“To date, the Farm Innovation Fund has delivered $220 million to more than 1300 farmers to help build on-farm infrastructure, and prepare for and battle drought.

“Our farmers are continuing to tell us that these loans are one of the best measures available, which is why we have decided to double the funding available, taking the Fund’s total value to $500 million.”

Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries welcomed the additional support.

“Conditions throughout the region have been very poor; dams are dry and pastures are greatly diminished,” Mr Humphries said.

“The boosted NSW Drought Management Strategy will assist our farmers and rural communities to get through the current dry spell and be better prepared for the next inevitable drought.”

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