Drought-hit farmers, small businesses and rural towns are set for an immediate cash injection to keep stock fed and watered, keep businesses open, keep locals in work and pump funds into local economies.
The Prime Minister said the next step of measures to combat the drought’s impact was ready to flow. “We are stepping up our drought response once again to meet the increasing needs as the drought’s effects also step up,” the Prime Minister said.
“Since the budget we have already committed an additional $355 million to step up our drought response. Today’s announcement triples this to more than $1 billion since the election, as well as more than $1 billion in new interest free loans, to see people through.”
“This is money into the pockets of all those farmers and graziers who know they have a future, but are currently struggling to keep their operations running as the crippling effects of this drought continue to bite that we’ve heard from out on the ground. They are backing themselves and we are backing them to make it through to the better days that will be ahead.”
“It’s not only farmers doing it tough in drought. Our next step in drought support also has an eye squarely on those communities feeling the strain as work dries up and spending in local stores slows down."
“There is no silver bullet to this drought. Each time we introduce further help we listen, we learn and we adjust our response because we know each community has different needs and priorities that need the resources and cooperation of every level of government.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the Government’s latest initiatives would deliver an extra $709 million worth of direct support.
“Communities across Australia are suffering the effects of the prolonged dry spell and today’s announcement is the next step in the measures to help ease the burden of the drought,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.
“This suite of measures go to the heart of what matters to these communities. From small businesses to primary producers, we are working with communities to take the pressure off one of the worst droughts in history.
“Not only is the Government continuing to respond as the drought progresses, but we are working on measures to assist in the recovery when the rains come, which includes the Government’s billion dollar investment in water infrastructure.
“By redirecting $200 million from the Building Better Regions Fund into drought communities and an extra $138.9 million into our Roads to Recovery initiative, we’re getting local projects and infrastructure work underway to keep finance flowing, trades in work and money rolling through local stores.”
The new Federal Government measures announced were:
- Extra $122 million for drought support to local councils - including all 10 in New England - to build local infrastructure, support jobs and regional economies
- Extra $138.9 million for additional Roads to Recovery funding
- New and existing drought loans will be interest free for 2 years to pay for immediate expenses like fodder, freight and wages. Years 3-5 will be interest-only
- New loans worth up to $500,000 each for small businesses dependent on agriculture to pay staff, buy equipment and refinance existing debt, also interest-free for 2 years.
- $10 million to support schools facing financial hardship as a result of ongoing drought conditions
- $5 million from the Community Child Care Fund will help assist centres that are experiencing decreased demand and financial pressure due to families from drought-affected areas being unable to pay for child care
- Redirecting $200 million into a Building Better Regions Fund special drought round, providing up to $10 million per project in local government areas
- 100 gigalitres of water from South Australia will be used to grow up to 120,000 tonnes of fodder as well as silage and pasture to secure supplies for the months ahead
Further information on the support available for drought-affected farms and communities and how to access it is available at http://www.agriculture.gov.au/drought/
The Government has also released the Drought Response, Resilience and Preparedness Plan which draws on the Drought Co-ordinator Major General Stephen Day’s report and the Government’s response, which was also released today. The Plan, Report and the Government’s response are available at http://www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought/drought-policy.