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Drought-fighting role falls to Pip Job, a beef cattle producer who understands the impact of dry years

Sally Bryant, Wednesday May 16, 2018 - 16:34 EST
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Pip Job is facing her biggest challenge in helping farmers deal with the drought in NSW. - ABC

After months of lobbying by farmers for government assistance to deal with the New South Wales drought, the Premier has appointed Pip Job as the state's drought coordinator.

She says her brief will be to listen to .

"I want to hear from people from all across the state in all sorts of primary production models. I want to hear what they are doing, or even what things they are deciding not to do," she said.

"I'm interested in the strategies people are using."

Ms Job is eminently qualified for the role as a beef cattle producer who has been in the business for 20 years.

She lives in the central west, an area badly affected by drought, and said she understands the impact on both farms and the environment generally.

which delivered $10 million worth of projects dealing with grazing, conservation, salinity and carbon farming.

And as Rural Woman of the Year in 2014 she has a high profile nationally.

Ms Job said she would have an 'open-door' policy and is encouraging farmers from across the state to contact her at the Dubbo offices of the NSW Department of Primary Industries with their stories and with their ideas.

Farmers dealing with dry in many ways

Official figures from the NSW Department of Primary Industries indicate that almost a third of the state is in drought or approaching drought, figures that farmers say do not adequately reflect the critical nature of the season.

and are critical of the way the NSW Government assesses drought statistics by relying on information from the Bureau of Meteorology, which they say is not sufficiently accurate.

Ms Job said everyone has their own methods to handle a dry season and she is not in the position to judge anyone.

She said she wants to assess what the situation is and how people are coping.

"Business is about managing risk and we have so many risks that we have to consider," she said.

"There are risks associated with people — like divorce or people getting sick. Then there are risks associated with the climate."

Areas that are usually considered "safe", like the central west and the Hunter Valley, are amongst the hardest hit and the season continues to be stubbornly dry.

"We don't know how long this is going to last. We don't know if we are in the beginning, the middle or the end of this drought," she said.

There will be a break eventually though, and when it comes Ms Job wants to know how farmers will respond.

"What plans do people have for when we do get the break we need?" she asked of farmers.

Reaction to the appointment

The announcement of Ms Job's new role was made by Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Scott Tourle's farm at Dubbo.

Mr Tourle welcomed the announcement and the appointment of Ms Job.

"I know Pip Job well and I think she is the ideal person for this job," he said.

"She has a holistic approach to agriculture and she will be able to take on the views of farmers. She will also understand what the Government needs are."

Matthew Coddington from Roseville Park Stud agreed that the appointment of a coordinator will help farmers through the drought, but said that it should be part of a bigger solution.

"I think the answer lies in having champions in the industry, farmers talking to farmers about how to manage a drought," he said.

"I think the Farm Innovation Fund is a great thing. We have used that on our farm to bring in new ideas.

"But that is not the same as a drought policy. That's something for setting your farm up for a dry time.

"I think tax incentives are a good idea to help people building haysheds, fodder sheds and silos.

"Watering systems, troughs and piping — they're all investments to help people drought-proof themselves."

Mr Coddington said tax incentives to carry out this sort of work would also have a knock-on benefit in rural communities as it promotes local investment and employment opportunities.

And as the drought drags on, getting the State Government to deliver on some of those ideas may ultimately rest with the state's new drought coordinator.


© ABC 2018

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