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NSW Budget: $600 million drought package with low interest loans, mental health support

By state political reporter Brigid Glanville, Wednesday June 13, 2018 - 10:04 EST
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Drought conditions have decimated the landscape and natural grass across NSW. - ABC

The NSW Government is almost doubling the funding that drought-affected farmers will be able to receive.

In next Tuesday's state budget almost $600 million will be allocated in a package covering low interest loans, mental health support and kangaroo management.

There will be $250 million going into the farm innovation fund and farmers will be able to access one-off loans of up to $50,000, which will be interest free for seven years.

Those loans can be used to buy feed, move livestock and for the first time can be used to preserve the bloodlines of stock by freezing the genetic lines.

Deputy Premier and leader of the NSW Nationals John Barilaro said for most farmers the genetics in breeding stock was what counted.

"So the loans will be available for bio bank, which is to bank stock genetics so that you when we're out of drought you can grab the genetics and insert that into new cattle and get back into the business," he said.

The farm innovation fund provides low-interest loans of up to $250,000 for farmers to build infrastructure on their land to drought proof for the future.

There will also be $25 million allocated for building new doppler radars for weather monitoring in NSW.

And there is $4 million for mental health services so farmers can access counselling services.

"We are targeting drought-affected communities because we know the drought plays a big emotional, mental toll in regional communities," said Mr Barilaro, who's party has been touring the state talking to farmers.

More kangaroo culling

As a result of the drought, kangaroo numbers have soared, creating more problems for farmers.

So the Government is changing the way farmers manage these numbers by allowing more culling and lifting some restrictions on how landholders need to tag kangaroos.

The commercial harvest zones for culling kangaroos will be expanded to the south-east of the state.

"Not everyone is going to like this decision," Mr Barilaro said.

"But for landholders the impact and explosion in numbers in kangaroos is causing a real issue. We're not increasing the cap, it's about actually reaching the cap."

However, there is no money available for freight subsidies in this package and the Government says the $50,000 loans can be used for this.

Regional businesses affected by the drought also do not receive any money.

The current package does include $5 million for helping local councils repair dirt roads damaged by the temporary access for heavy vehicles carrying feed, water and livestock.

The State Government says farmers are the first priority but if the drought continues they will need to look at expanding the assistance.


© ABC 2018

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