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Russel Northe MLA:
Government Support Runs Dry in Latrobe
Drought continues with little support.
By Portal Admin - 25th May 2019 - Back to News
Member for Morwell Russell Northe has used Question Time in Parliament this week to place more pressure upon the Andrews Government to extend drought support measures to Latrobe Valley farmers and families.
"Over the past few months I have received many calls and emails from local farmers who are doing it tough due to these awful drought conditions, and it is heartbreaking to hear of their pain", said Mr Northe.
"I’ve been calling for measures to be put into place for months (see attached media article)", Mr Northe said. "The reality is that we have farmers on the ground who have very little feed and water for their animals, and even if they can get their hands on feed - the price can well be out of their reach".
"Whilst some Government assistance and support has been announced for farmers based in Wellington and East Gippsland Council areas and rightly so, the facts are that this drought doesn’t have an arbitrary line at Council boundaries", Mr Northe continued.
"In some cases in our region, we have the situation whereby a farmer on one side of the road is eligible for Victorian Government assistance, yet the farmer on the other side of the road is not, and this is simply due to which Council area they reside in", Mr Northe explained.
Below are some examples where Latrobe City farmers are excluded from Victorian Government relief programs:
- Pasture Recovery and Management Grant Program
- On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support Grants
- Farm Business Assistance Program
"The bottom line is that the effects of the drought are widespread", said Mr Northe, "and on that basis, the State Government must provide funding and support for all those affected not just in certain municipalities.
Mr Northe has also requested the State Government provide Local Government rate relief for Latrobe City farmers.
"The many farmers I have spoken to within the Morwell electorate are not only saying these are the worst conditions they have ever seen, they are also telling me the most practical support that can be provided is to be exempt from paying Council rates for 12 months", said Mr Northe.
"This is where we need the State Government to step up to the plate and provide real tangible and worthwhile assistance to our farmers - who need help right now".
"In 2008, the State Government provided rate relief to Latrobe City farmers and now in the very worst of conditions these same supports should be applied", said Mr Northe, (attached is a media release from the then Minister for Agriculture outlining the rate subsidies provided in 2008).
"For approximately $2.6 million this rate relief initiative would allow Latrobe City farmers to spend their own money on specific areas of need such as feed, water cartage costs and cost of living expenses rather than paying the Council" said Mr Northe.
"I know this initiative has been called for by other Members of Parliament within Wellington and East Gippsland Council areas, and I firmly support the same in its application Latrobe City farmers as well", Mr Northe said.
"In Parliament this week, the Premier himself made this commitment:
"the government will continue to provide support—real support, not just politically convenient support—to all drought-affected farmers."
"Well, I’m calling upon the Premier and his Government, to deliver on this commitment to all droughtaffected farmers", Mr Northe said. "That’s why I’ve pleaded for equal access to drought support for Latrobe City farmers, and for the State Government to provide immediate rate relief for these hard working families".
"In addition, I remain concerned the lack of support being provided to those organisations who are doing their best to support our farming communities" he said. Earlier this year Mr Northe requested the Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes provide funding to the Gippsland Farmer Relief (GFR) organisation, in order for this wonderful local charity to continue to support struggling farming families in the Gippsland region.
"To be frank, the answer from the Minister concluded that no funding would be forthcoming for GFR. This is extremely disappointing to say the least, particularly given the invaluable work GFR and other like-minded organisations are providing on the ground," said Mr Northe.
Mr. Northe’s question is incorporated into the Hansard excerpt attached, for your reference.
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