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Farmers urged to seek financial help as big dry bites on Tasmania's east coast

By Declan Gooch, Saturday December 1, 2018 - 09:40 EDT
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Like many others on Tasmania's east coast, David Amos has seen dry weather persist. - ABC

David Amos has been checking the rain gauge on his property at Cranbrook, on Tasmania's east coast, for about 50 years.



Rain records for the property stretch back to 1901, and Mr Amos said the data was showing a grim trend.

"Just adding up the figures, in the last 32 years we've actually had 22 years below average, so it speaks for itself," he said.

Increasingly dry weather on the east coast is a common story among farmers in the region, who say the tough conditions have received almost no recognition from authorities.

"I haven't heard much about it, even much talk about it," Mr Amos said.

"We've had to do a bit of canvassing to bring it to their attention, and even to find out information is very difficult."



'We're farming in a drier climate'

Farmers from around the region met at Swansea this week to discuss the situation.

Henry Dunbabin, president of the East Coast Primary Producers Association, said most farmers were calling it a drought.

"My experience looking at historical data compared to now [is that] it is a lot drier climate we're farming in than we have been previously," Mr Dunbabin said.

He said his own data showed that from 1885 to 1960, there was about one year in every 38 years where rainfall was under 400 millimetres.

That figure changed to one year in every six between 1961 and 2000, and about one year in every three from 2001 to 2017.



Assistance available 'without drought declaration'

Financial counsellors like Roland Chugg from Rural Business Tasmania urged attendees at the forum to consider applying for assistance.



He said there was a mistaken belief there must be an official declaration of drought before drought-related support was available.

"The Government doesn't have to announce there's a drought," Mr Chugg said.

"If a farmer's suffering dry conditions, the Government's got packages out there they can apply for."

He said there were two federal government farm loan programs that drought-affected east coast farmers should check their eligibility for.

"There's also the farm household allowance. If a farmer's going through a bit of a tight patch ... they can make a claim," he said.

"I think a lot of farmers believe they might not qualify for a benefit, but if they come and spoke to one of the organisations ...there's packages out there for all sorts of farmers."



Green tinge has lifted spirits: Rural Alive and Well

Tasmanian Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett acknowledged the region was in drought.



"I encourage farmers experiencing financial hardship because of drought conditions to apply for federal drought assistance," he said in a statement.

"The Tasmanian Government continues to monitor the situation on the east coast … and we will consider additional assistance in the event that conditions deteriorate further."

Mental health group Rural Alive and Well was also on hand, aware of the stress that years of abnormally dry weather can cause.

Outreach worker Andrew Baker said the green tinge caused by rain last week had lifted spirits.

"I think they're a little bit more upbeat this week. Obviously the little bit of rain that we have had has made a little bit of difference, but we've got no run-off," Mr Baker said.

"What we're seeing out there is probably a bit of a painting."


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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