Drought assistance extended

25 Sep, 2015 06:45 AM
Drought affected communities need help, not spin

DROUGHT assistance has been extended to the communities of Richmond and Barcoo in Queensland and Coonamble in NSW.

They are now eligible to participate in the federal government's new Drought Communities Programme to assist in building infrastructure.

In a joint statement, Agriculture and Water Minister Barnaby Joyce and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the decision to extend the Drought Communities Programme was based on an update and extension of rainfall deficiency records provided by the Bureau of Meteorology up to August 2015.

Mr Truss said the programme had been introduced to generate greater economic stability in regional areas impacted by low rainfalls.

He said it provided $35 million over four years to fund local infrastructure initiatives in eligible drought-affected communities to "build greater economic resilience for the future".

“Funding under the programme aims to stimulate local community spending, employment and use of local businesses and suppliers to provide long-lasting benefits to regional communities," he said.

Mr Joyce said while two extra Queensland and one NSW regional centres were now eligible to access funding through the programme, the government was assessing project funding proposals from five eligible councils.

“A number of regions continue to experience terrible drought,” Mr Joyce said.

“Also announced earlier this year was support for mental health, the Rural Financial Counselling Service, pest management and concessional loans, and each of these initiatives is well underway, providing real relief for those doing it tough.”

Eligible councils yet to submit requests for assistance under the Drought Communities Programme have until December 24, 2015 to lodge applications or their eligibility may lapse.

Mr Joyce said rainfall data will be reviewed again over the coming months to monitor the funding eligibility of other councils in NSW and Queensland.

However, Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has labelled the announcement of drought assistance as a farce.

"The Agriculture Minister has announced that three additional councils will be eligible for the Drought Communities Program," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"The Program was announced almost six months ago so that drought affected areas could bring forward local 'shovel ready' infrastructure projects.

"Not one project has been approved let alone commenced. Not one cent has been spent, not one job created.

"The extension of the program is an extension of nothing but a lick and a promise.

"Drought affected communities need help, not spin."



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