Drought grants take in rainfall, not water

Weddin gets lucky, Griffith misses out and Moyne rejects council drought assistance

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Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack with Weddin Shire Council Mayor, Mark Liebich and Panthers Rugby Club president Mark Hughes and secretary, Joshua Taylor. The Panthers Rugby Club was able to improve its oval with funds from the Drought Communities Program.

Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack with Weddin Shire Council Mayor, Mark Liebich and Panthers Rugby Club president Mark Hughes and secretary, Joshua Taylor. The Panthers Rugby Club was able to improve its oval with funds from the Drought Communities Program.

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What makes a council eligible for drought funding?

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Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, toured Grenfell in the state's Central West last week to see how Weddin Shire Council had used its one million dollar grant from the federal government's Drought Communities Program.

Mr McCormack congratulated Weddin Shire mayor, Cr Mark Liebich, on the council's spending of the funds, which went towards numerous projects, including upgrading the Grenfell rugby union oval, Quandialla town hall and building horse stables for the Weddin Mountain Muster.

"When we can upgrade facilities around town, that gives people something to look forward to, it gives the locals that feeling of optimism, money is being spent, jobs are being created and income is coming back into the community," Mr McCormack said.

Yet not all councils struggling with the on-going drought have been lucky enough to receive assistance.

Mr McCormack said a council's eligibility for the funding program was based on rainfall, population and reliance on agriculture and was completely independent of the political process.

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But, the government's eligibility testing was questioned last week when Moyne Shire in Victoria rejected drought assistance on the basis it had actually had above average rainfall in recent months.

Despite this move by the council, Mr McCormack insisted it was correct to offer them a one million dollar drought-assistance grant.

"Moyne Shire council was actually eligible, if they don't want the money, we'll give it to other councils that will accept the money," Mr McCormack said.

"The department acknowledged they did read the rainfall figures one month out, but they still did qualify."

One council that did not qualify was Griffith City Council, which sits in the centre of one of Australia's largest irrigation districts but failed to tick all the boxes related to rainfall, reliance on agriculture and population.

Griffith Mayor, Cr John Dal Broi said it was disappointing to have been overlooked, but the criteria outlined by the federal government did not directly relate to how the drought was impacting their shire.

"Yes we haven't had much rain, but our issue is water allocations, that's what affects us most," Cr Dal Broi said.

Irrigators in the Griffith area have only received up to seven per cent of their general security water allocation since July, 2018.

But Mr McCormack said this was not taken into account when looking at councils' eligibility for federal drought-assistance, as water allocations were a state government issue.

"We're always looking at that, when it doesn't rain it is tough and I know these areas grow the food and fibre we need for domestic supplies and export," Mr McCormack said.

"We've had discussions of course as to how we can help them, but allocations are the remit of state governments."

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