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Landcare says drought aid must come direct from Treasury

Sally Bryant and Michael Condon, Wednesday November 6, 2013 - 14:58 EDT
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A farmer feeds a flock of sheep. - ABC

Landcare proponents in NSW say they are actively lobbying against a move by the Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to fund drought relief measures through the unallocated Caring for Country budget, rather than from Treasury.

Chief executive officer of the Little River Landcare Group, Pip Job, says the Coalition made an election promise to continue to fund Landcare projects, and that the funds for drought relief should come from traditional sources, rather than 'robbing Peter to pay Paul'.

The NSW and Federal Governments have come under increasing pressure in recent weeks to provide assistance to farmers in the north-west of the state who are suffering a serious drought.

Farmers in NSW are receiving some assistance from the State Government, but are seeking additional assistance in the form of freight and interest subsidies.

Ms Job says the Landcare movement will be taking the matter up with NSW and Federal politicians in an effort to protect the funds that have been earmarked for conservation and conservation farming projects.

"We're not against the government providing drought support, but they need to fund it from Treasury and not at the expense of other valuable land management projects."

Chairman of Landcare NSW Robert Dulhunty says that the Minister Barnaby Joyce denying that the re-allocation of money into drought programs was a cut to Landcare "is nonsense".

"The Coalition went to the last election standing in front of Landcare groups for publicity saying they would not be cutting funding.

"But now we hear that that is exactly what is happening, it is very disappointing.

"I don't think taking money away from Landcare is the way to help out those in drought, it should come from Treasury as it is a natural disaster, like bushfires and floods.

"Taking money away from Landcare is like stopping spending money on backburning when putting money into fighting bushfires.

"Landcare will be working hard to get support from the new members of Parliament with strong Landcare links to get this decision changed as I believe it is still to get through cabinet."

NSW Minister for Agriculture, Katrina Hodgkinson is in China this week and while she has not seen the detail of announcements made by Barnaby Joyce today, she says she has had discussions with him around the issue of drought funding.

The Minister says she has also heard concerns from Landcare groups around the state and she says it would be very disappointing if Landcare lost funding from the Federal Government as it is such an effective community group.

Minister Hodgkinson would not be drawn on any possibility that changes in funding for Caring for Country would have implications for the soon to be launched Local Land Services.

"We came to a very strong agreement with the previous government which allowed us to then form Local Land Services with a very secure funding base."

The Minister would not enter into any speculation on whether the changes would affect the financial viability of the new service.


© ABC 2013

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