Drought chief drops in
Friday, 12th October, 2018
By Emily Roberts
An uneven picture of the drought has been painted to the Coordinator General for Drought, Major General Stephen Day, as he makes his way around the state gathering information.
Major General Day visited Broken Hill on Wednesday and Thursday to speak with farmers and the Pastoralists Association of West Darling to gain an understanding of drought conditions in the region.
“What I’ve gathered is an uneven pictured,” he said yesterday.
“Some dams are dry, some have a couple that aren’t dry.
“People are having to pull out livestock, kangaroos and emus.
“It is taking a physical and emotional toll on all of them.
“They are telling me they have to work harder in the drought. But that’s just part of the story.
“Many people have prepared for the drought, some have prepared and it hasn’t worked.
“But some have succeeded.
“We need to ask them what they did that worked and how we can use it to help others.”
Major General Day was recently appointed as the National Drought Coordinator and it was announced in August that direct assistance and concessional loans to aid drought-stricken farmers were increased to $1.8 billion.
The Liberal-Nationals Government announced additional funding for local infrastructure in drought-affected areas, new tax breaks for farmers, the appointment of a National Drought Coordinator and low-interest loans as part of the next phase of our drought response.
The Government also planned to simplify the application form for Farm Household Allowance.
“I’ve come to listen to how the drought is affecting the local community and farmers,” Major General Day said.
“Four main things have come out of my meeting with local farmers and the PAWD.
“The first is that kangaroos are a concern to farmers; they are competing for feed.
“There is a taskforce tackling this but the funding is about to run out.
“Farmers are concerned with transporting feed over state boundaries.
“PAWD suggested a water infrastructure fund and long-term planning for the drought.”
Major General Day said he found that people in drought-affected areas wanted to be heard.
“We need to let them know there is support available.”
He also suggested the development of a single location where all the information of programs and initiatives to help farmers can be accessed.
“There are also problems with information coming back the other way.
“Different communities have different needs and policies need to be developed that are beneficial.”
Major General Day said important points included; there is already support available, fast and timely help is important and that guidelines have been improved to help the grant process.
“We need to make sure support is being spread evenly.”
Doubt over $50 million drought charity funds
Uncertainty surrounds around $50 million in charitable donations meant for struggling farmers, with the federal government unsure how many properties are affected.
National Drought Coordinator Major General Stephen Day said he didn’t know how many farms were drought-stricken, but had a “pretty good handle” on the number of regions feeling the pain.
He said drought charities had received $50 million in donations, with $30 million doled out to farmers so far.
Asked where the donations were, Maj Gen Day told 2GB: “It’s not my money, it’s money owned by charities.”
“There are a lot of charities. I actually don’t know how many there are, I don’t know if anyone does.”
Maj Gen Day admitted information on the drought assistance program wasn’t reaching farmers in an adequate way.
“That’s one of the key problems we face across the country - there’s a lack of fidelity of information at the ground level to advise governments at all levels as to what they should be doing,” he said.
He said his role included trying to identify gaps in policy and getting charities together.
Farmers in NSW and Queensland are worst affected by the drought, which is sweeping large swathes of eastern Australia.
“There’s no doubt there are some people who are doing it very tough out there,” Maj Gen Day said.
“This one’s got on top of them. There is something a bit different about this one.”