More support is on the way to help Gippsland farmers and families cope with unprecedented drought conditions and to help drought-proof the region for the future.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in addition to the $1 million already locked in for each of the East Gippsland and Wellington Councils to help with local projects to boost jobs and the economy, his government would invest in additional mental health services and short and longer term water infrastructure for the region.
“Help is on the way for Gippsland farmers and families,” the Prime Minister said.
“I can’t make it rain but we’re working closely with the local community to ensure the right supports are in place and that we have the water infrastructure needed for the future.
“I’ll also be meeting with the Victorian Premier tomorrow to discuss what else all three levels of government can do to cooperate and get Gippsland through this drought. Like the farmers, families and businesses trying to cope with the drought across other parts of the country, supporting Gippsland is a priority for my Government.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Michael McCormack said the new water infrastructure projects were key to helping drought-proof the region for the future.
“Having spent time on the ground with drought-affected farmers earlier this month, we understand the importance of immediate and meaningful assistance for Gippsland’s farming families,” Mr McCormack said.
“That’s why our Government is putting in place immediate and long term measures to provide relief for those people who are doing it tough.
“The up to $31 million we’re putting on the table for the Macalister Irrigation District project as well as the On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme are about the short and longer term future of Gippsland farming.
“Throughout Australia it’s water projects like these that may sound small in the scheme of things but have huge positive potential.
“We also understand the impact on local business in times like these which is why our $25,000 Instant Asset Write-Off and accelerated depreciation measures for new water infrastructure and fencing are so important to help keep incomes flowing.”
The Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said he had spent the past fortnight in Canberra working to secure extra help for his community.
“Drought conditions across the region have worsened considerably over the past two weeks,” Mr Chester said.
“The drought is having a huge social impact on communities across Gippsland in areas like Giffard, Stradbroke and McGaurans Beach; Briagolong, Bengworden and Meerlieu to Orbost, and into the high country in places like Ensay, Swifts Creek and Dargo.
“Gippsland has now secured an extra $2.5 million for extra mental health services that will be distributed through the Gippsland Primary Health Network. That funding will be available immediately so farmers will have someone to talk to and discuss their situation.
“While it won’t turn paddocks green overnight, we’re also backing local water projects to ensure farmers are better prepared for the future.”
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud said the centrepiece of the government drought response would be the $3.9 billion Future Drought Fund, which passed the House of Representatives this week, would provide a sustainable source of investment for climate adaptation, drought resilience, preparedness and recovery.
Minister Littleproud said Labor opposed the Future Drought Fund last week which made it the lowest point of this parliament.
“For Labor to politicise the misery of Australian farmers is a new low I didn’t think even they would reach,” Minister Littleproud said.
“I’m pleased to announce Victorian farmers will now have access to the $50 million On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate scheme so drought-hit farmers can claim up to 25 per cent on new farm water infrastructure costs.”
Additional support already available from the Commonwealth Government includes $3.6 million to expand Medicare Benefit Services to enable local doctors to offer mental well-being support services via telehealth to rural and remote patients, as well as $225,000 for ReachOUT to raise awareness of counselling services in drought affected communities.
The Government has also committed $30 million for selected charities to continue their important work of supporting farmers, farm workers and farm suppliers who are facing hardship arising from drought with through cash payments and vouchers to be used to meet basic needs such as food, personal products and utility bills.