The Liberal National Coalition Government’s announcement today to re-direct the $200 million Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) to drought-affected communities is just one of a suite of measures to support farmers and their communities.
The move means that projects in the Dawson electorate will not be eligible for funding under the next round of BBRF, which is due to open shortly.
I think that everyone across the Dawson electorate, from Mackay, Proserpine and the Whitsundays, through to Bowen, the Burdekin and the southern suburbs of Townsville will join with me in welcoming the announcement made by my government colleagues today, as it will direct $200 million of Building Better Regions funding to the farming communities that are drought declared under the Federal Government’s guidelines.
This means that there will be no projects in my electorate which will be eligible for the next round of funding for this program. This is only fair because so many people in the bush, in regional areas, are going through extremely tough times. Any support we can give to these drought-affected communities is a welcome development.
Under previous rounds of the BBRF program, we’ve provided funding to Mackay Regional Council to build the Sugar Bowl skate park and upgrade eight of our boat ramps around the region.
CQ Rescue also received $1.6m in funding for a refurbishment of their facilities.
In the Whitsundays, funding has gone to building council’s resilience hub following Cyclone Debbie, and to the Greening Growing Bowen project to upgrade equipment so effluent can be kept out of the ocean and recycled for use on parks and gardens.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison led other government ministers in an announcement today to provide an immediate cash injection to those affected by drought to keep stock fed and watered, keep businesses open and keep locals in work.
The Government will continue to listen to drought-affected Australia, respond and step up.
Current drought response measures include:
Looking after our farming families here and now
- Simplified and expanded access to the Farm Household Allowance and extended it to a 4 in 10 year payment. Households are eligible for around $105,000 as well as an additional payment of $13,000 for couples
- $3,000 cash payments for families under the Drought Communities Support Initiative
- Built the National Drought Map so all data and support services are in one place
- Invested $25 million to help our farmers combat pests and weeds; $2.7 million to improve regional weather and climate guides; and $77.2 million for Bureau of Meteorology radars
- $2 billion available in concessional loans through the Regional Investment Corporation to help farmers and small businesses prepare for, manage through and recover from drought
- $5 million for the Rural Financial Counselling Service
- Making new and existing drought loans for farmers interest free for two years so they purchase fodder, pay for freight and pay their farm hands. Years three to five will be interest only payment and years six to 10 will be interest and principal. Current scheme is the first five years are interest only payments, and interest and principal payments for the balance of the loan term
- A new program for small businesses dependent on agriculture with loans worth up to $500,000 that can be used to pay staff, buy equipment and refinance. It follows the same new payment scheme as the Drought Loans for farmers
- $10 million to support schools facing financial hardship as a result of ongoing drought conditions, including fee concessions for boarding students
- $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
Supporting jobs and investment in local communities
- $1 million for 122 councils and shires in drought-affected areas to invest in projects that support jobs and business income
- $30 million for targeted mental health support
- $50 million funding for major charities to assist rural Australians in desperate need with up to $3,000 in individual support payments
- An additional $1 million for each of the 122 drought-affected councils and shires if they need it
- $1 million each for new drought-affected councils and shires including Greater Hume, Hilltops, Lockhart and Upper Lachlan in NSW, and Kangaroo Island and Tatiara in SA
- $50 million discretionary fund to support projects in Local Government Areas impacted by the drought
- Redirecting $200 million into a Building Better Regions Fund drought round to support new projects that deliver social and economic benefits to drought-affected communities
- $138.9 million additional Roads to Recovery funding in calendar year 2020 for the 128 Local Government Areas eligible for the Drought Communities Programme Extension
Long term resilience
- Future Drought Fund worth $5 billion to be a sustainable source of funding to improve drought resilience and preparedness
- $1.5 billion for 21 dams, irrigation projects and pipelines across Australia
- 100 gigalitres of water that 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 details of the Government’s response are available at www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought/drought-policy.
Further information on the support available for drought-affected farms and communities and how to access it is available at www.agriculture.gov.au/drought