Premier announces drought funding

PREMIER Daniel Andrews visited Bairnsdale on Wednesday with state Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes to announce more than $31 million in targeted support for drought-affected areas, including east and central Gippsland.

The state government will establish a $15 million Farmers’ Drought Fund to help farming businesses and families that need it most, alleviating some of the immediate burden while also supporting farmers to make investments in the long term.

The fund will provide household financial relief for families in central and east Gippsland, the Millewa region of north-west Victoria and the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District in the state’s north-east, with $3 million to deliver hardship payments of up to $3000 per family, taking immediate pressure off everyday expenses.

The government’s current drought program has provided 4855 grants for Victorian farming businesses to improve drought management and preparedness – the Farmers’ Drought Fund continues that work, with $12 million in grants to support the long-term future of farming with drought infrastructure and business planning.

The package also includes $5.2 million in Local Government Service Support Payments, which will help East Gippsland, Wellington and Mildura councils meet the immediate needs of their communities.

The Catchment Management Authority Drought Employment Program will be extended, giving farmers and their employees access to off-farm employment and training. The $4.6 million investment will continue the program in Wellington and East Gippsland shires, and roll it out for the first time in the Millewa and GMID.

Vouchers will also be provided to farm businesses in the Millewa region to maintain essential on-farm machinery and equipment.

The package will also provide $2.3 million in farm business management and planning support, $2 million for mental health services and $1.25 million for local projects and events to help keep communities strong.

The state package complements drought funding recently announced by the federal government.

For more read Friday’s Gippsland Times.