East Gippsland Shire Council Mayor Cr Natalie O’Connell has thanked Premier Daniel Andrews and Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes for today announcing a new drought funding package, which has a focus on East Gippsland.
The $31 million Victorian Government package is targeted to support East Gippsland, Wellington, and the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District and Millewa in the north-west of the state. It includes:
- $1.51m for East Gippsland Shire Council to assist in meeting the immediate needs of the community.
- $400,000 for the Gippsland Agriculture Group demonstration/trial site near the Bairnsdale Aerodrome, with a focus on farming in a changing climate and building resiience and readiness for the future.
- $12m in grants to invest in on-farm drought preparedness, including the waiving of fees for new water bores.
- $3m in hardship payments (up to $3,000 per family) to be distributed in partnership with the Country Women’s Association.
- $1.25m for local projects and community resilience building, including support for Council’s joint (with Wellington Shire Council) ‘Looking Ahead’ approach to transition, recovery and adaption.
- Continuation of the drought employment program being administered by the Catchment Management Authority, which provides off-farm work for local farmers.
Cr O’Connell said the package would help address some of the immediate, short and longer-term challenges facing East Gippsland because of one of the region’s most severe droughts on record.
“Today’s announcement is welcome news and a positive response from the Government to our strong advocacy on behalf of our farmers and communities,” Cr O’Connell said.
The Mayor said how Council distributes the $1.51m would be determined in the coming weeks.
“It will be a decision made by Council in consultation with our Drought Reference Group. We’re conscious of working as quickly as possible given the pressures being faced by our communities. Using the funding to provide rate relief will be part of those discussions,” Cr O’Connell said.
“This is a positive response to our advocacy, and acknowledgement from the Government that our communities are doing it tough. The Government’s strong undertaking today to work with us if further support was needed was also great to hear.
“The Minister and I have had regular contact and will continue to do so to ensure our communities are front-of-mind during the drought and in recovery.”