THERE’LL be three new Doppler weather radars for western NSW in Tuesday’s state budget – while the popular Farm Innovation Fund will also be topped to the brim and expanded to fodder and grain transport as part of a $279 million government spend on drought.
Increased mental health support for rural towns was also part of the parcel unwrapped by Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair on Wednesday as farmers in the region – and across the state – brace for a tough Winter and Spring.
About $250m will be poured into the Farm Innovation Fund, with farmers now able to access one-off loans of up to $50,000, interest free for seven years, to bring in fodder and grain to sustain stock. The fund has to date been used for low-interest loans to build farm water infrastructure, with $220m distributed to more than 1300 farmers since 2014.
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In terms of capital spending, there is $25m allocated to construct and operate three new Doppler radar weather stations in the Central West and Far West.
“These new radars will deliver fast, accurate and live weather updates to help our farmers make timely business decisions,” Mr Barilaro said.
“We know that Western NSW has been crying out for accurate radar information for many years and in particular, I would like to acknowledge and thank Orana Regional Organisation of Councils, NSW Farmers and the Country Women’s Association for their ongoing advocacy for this critical infrastructure”.
Reports from the bush that kangaroo numbers are decimating already-parched pastures have been met with a promise to extend the commercial harvest zones for culling kangaroos to the south-east of the state. The new strategy will make it easier for landholders to meet the harvest quotas set by the Commonwealth.
In 2017, NSW met less than 20 per cent of the quota, which was set to maintain the long-term kangaroo population.
There has been no shortage of column inches over the past six months as producers across the state slide from poor to severe conditions.
Almost all of NSW is suffering from an extended dry period, which is expected to continue throughout the winter and potentially spring.
The Budget will also include $4m specifically targeting drought-affected communities, including support for the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health to operate 13 statewide co-ordinators, and funding for additional counselling support through the National Association for Loss and Grief, a Dubbo-based NGO.
More to come