Scott Morrison unveils $5B fund to fight drought

By @chelean on
The remaining cattle on farmer May McKeown's drought-affected property, located on the outskirts of the northwestern New South Wales town of Walgett in Australia, eat hay July 20, 2018. Picture taken July 20, 2018.
The remaining cattle on farmer May McKeown's drought-affected property, located on the outskirts of the northwestern New South Wales town of Walgett in Australia, eat hay July 20, 2018. Picture taken July 20, 2018. Reuters/David Gray

Scott Morrison has unveiled the Government’s plan to fight drought with a $5 billion Future Drought Fund. On Friday, the prime minister said the new plan would guarantee support against future droughts faced by farmers and communities in rural and regional Australia.

As he has explained in Canberra at the national drought summit, the Fund starts with an initial $3.9 billion investment. Each year from 2020, $100 million in earnings will be available for use to fund important water infrastructure and drought resilience projects. The balance will go back to the Fund, which the Government is expecting to grow to $5 billion over the next decade.

The Fund will support farmers and their local communities when it’s not raining, as well as provide community service, research, assistance on adoption of technology, advice and infrastructure. This is expected to support long-term sustainability in cases of drought.

Regional communities will also receive immediate help with the Drought Communities Program extended from 60 to 81 local governments, with each given $1 million to stimulate their local economies.

Mr Morrison said they were also establishing a $50 million On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme, which would provide financial assistance to primary producers in drought-affected regions. The Scheme will produce support for on-farm infrastructure, such as tanks, troughs, pumps and pipings.

The new online Farm Hub, hosted by the National Farmers’ Federation, will be the point of access to information and services, so that farms and regional communities can have access to the list of support, data and resources.

“While drought-affected farmers and communities are renowned for their resilience, the ongoing dry conditions have hit farming families and rural communities hard and extra support is needed,” Mr Morrison said. “That’s why we are increasing funding for mental health services by $15.5 million in drought-affected areas across Australia, delivering early intervention and community well-being services.”

He added that there would be a further $3.6 million investment to expand Medicare Benefit Services to enable local doctors to offer mental well-being support services via telehealth to rural and remote patients.

“We will also help to take some of the pressure off farmers and their families by helping them to keep food on the table, pay their bills and meet their basic needs,” he continued. “Our Government will give $30 million to the key charities to provide support to at least 10,000 households facing hardships. This will help individuals and families to get by while returning the money to local communities.”

The specific projects under the Fund have apparently yet to be approved.

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