Farmers outraged at EC funding decision

October 10, 2008

In the Northern Slopes Rural Protection Board area, 24 of the last 48 months, have been in drought, 18 months were declared marginal, and only six months have been drought free, according to NSW Farmers Barraba District Council Chairman, Don Mack.

Mr. Mack chaired a public meeting to discuss the government’s decision to pull this area out of Exceptional Circumstances drought assistance at the end of September.

Although areas to the south have received useful rain, Mr. Mack said, this area remains "pretty ordinary", and over 100 people at the meeting backed up this feeling.

"After five months of drought, there was utter disbelief that this area has been pulled out of EC funding," Mr. Mack said.

Describing the meeting as good and constructive, Mr. Mack said people felt strongly that "we have had our legs cut out from under us."

"We had a good case to get the area in the roll-over, when the decision was made in August, ENRAC (Environmental and Natural Resources Advisory Committee) looked at other areas, but didn’t do the leg work in this area.

"If ENRAC had done their work property we would not be meeting tonight," Mr. Mack told the meeting.

Speakers at the meeting included Alicia Wilson from NSW Farmers, who said NSW Farmers President, Jock Laurie had written to the Federal and State Agriculture Ministers.

A representative from Centrelink outlined options available for farmers, and Jenny Croft from the NSW DPI talked about available programs.

The after initial addresses, the meeting broke into workshops, where information was gathered and collated.  This included information about rainfall patterns and pasture conditions.  "It was the same story all over this area, conditions are very ordinary, and they will be for some time yet," Mr. Mack said.

"We heard some very sad stories at the meeting. People are really relying on this funding , and to have it cut out from underneath them, when we are still in drought, is very emotional for a lot of people.  "I hope for their sake we can get something done about it."

Despite a flush of clover, grass is yet to grow, and Mr. Mack said it was graziers who were feeling the pinch. Most of the people at the meeting indicated they were graziers rather than croppers.

The meeting decided to concentrate their efforts on the area taking in the current Northern Slopes RLPB, the Gwydir Shire, and the old Barraba Shire.

"We are going to go in batting hard for that area, and hopefully we can get that decision reversed for those within that area," Mr. Mack said.

The information gathered at the meeting was collated and a submission was sent to NSW Farmers Head Office on Thursday, so that a presentation to the Minister can be prepared.