A petition calling on the state government to do more for drought-stricken farmers will be tabled in NSW Parliament this week.
The NSW Drought Petition, which was instigated by The Maitland Mercury and supported by sister newspapers across NSW, has 21,000 signatures – 11,000 more than the 10,000 needed to secure a parliamentary debate about drought support.
The overwhelming response means the signatures can be split into two piles and tabled separately.
And, there will now be two parliamentary debates instead of one.
Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison will table 10,000 signatures in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, on behalf of the Mercury.
The second lot will be tabled either later this week or next week.
The two parliamentary debates will follow at a later date.
More than 1350 people across NSW requested a copy of the petition to collect signatures and 229 interstate residents pledged their support for the cause through an online register.
Take a look at the NSW drought for yourself:
Members of the One Day Closer to Rain Facebook page, and its founder Cassandra McLaren, also played an integral role in collecting signatures.
Mercury journalist Belinda-Jane Davis, who started the petition, said the result showed there was overwhelming support across the state for farmers.
“The response has been overwhelming,” she said.
This incredible result belongs to every one of you who went out and collected signatures, or signed the petition in your community, and you should all be very proud of what we have achieved together,- Mercury journalist Belinda-Jane Davis
“This is an example of what can happen when we unite over a common cause and do what we can to help make a difference.
“The 21,000 signatures sends a strong message to the state government about what the community wants for their farmers.”
The petition, which started in June, urges the state government to offer farmers relief on the cost of freight, fodder, water and Local Land Service rates.
Read more: Learn more about the NSW Drought Petition
It calls for NSW Fire and Rescue trucks to be allowed to deliver water to farms to nourish livestock and crops, for provisions to help farmers collect livestock genetics and for restocking/replanting loans after the drought breaks.
It also calls for a 50 per cent subsidy on the cost of animal feed.
The cost of feed, and sourcing it, continues to be a major issue for farmers across the state.
When the hay season begins in October it is expected prices will be a minimum of $400 a tonne, with better quality fodder even more expensive.
Hard times: before and after
Almost two months after the petition started the government offered primary producers a 50 per cent subsidy for the transport of fodder, water for livestock or moving animals for sale, slaughter or to other pastures. It is capped at $20,000.
The government also offered a low-interest loan which primary producers can use to collect livestock genetics, and also waived Local Land Service annual rates.
The seven points in the petition were penned after speaking with farmers from across NSW who are involved with different types of farming.
Want to know more?
Click here to go to our extensive drought coverage, called The Big Dry.