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Drought help for farmers in South Australia could be extended to council rate relief

Isabella Pittaway, Thursday October 10, 2019 - 11:08 EDT
ABC image
South Australia's Labor Opposition has criticised the State Government for not having any direct financial assistance in place to support drought affected farmers and pastoralists. - ABC

The South Australian Government is considering providing council rate relief to drought-affected farmers as the state opposition claims that South Australia is way behind other state government support.

Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said drought support was the

Mr Whetstone said the Government had estimated council rate relief would cost about $20 million and would be discussed at a meeting with other agriculture ministers later this month.

"I will work with the Treasurer and my cabinet colleagues to make sure we give our farmers the support that they need," Mr Whetstone said.

"If the best way to spend that money will be rate relief potentially that will be high on the agenda."

The Government officially declared South Australia in drought last September and has announced a range of specific drought assistance programs and services costing $1.9 million, including funding for nine family and business support mentors, additional funding for the rural financial counselling service, as well as providing a stamp duty exemption for multi-peril farm insurance.

Mr Whetstone said the Government did not want to provide a knee-jerk reaction to drought support but it flagged providing council rate relief nearly a year ago.

Across the border, eastern Victoria has been in drought for three years similar to parts of South Australia.

The Victorian Government last month topped up its to a total of more than $70 million.

It features a $15 million farmers drought fund, which includes payments of up to $3,000 for farming families facing 'extreme' hardships, and grants for on-farm drought preparedness.

Drought support 'way behind' other states

South Australia's Labor Opposition criticised the State Government for to support drought-affected farmers and pastoralists.

Shadow Regional Development Minister Eddie Hughes called on the Government to implement a similar grants program to Victoria.

"There's little in the way of tangible support for farmers and pastoralists in South Australia," Mr Hughes said.

"South Australian farmers are definitely missing out.

"It's been over a year further into drought and we still have not seen that tangible support which is necessary."

Mr Hughes acknowledged that Queensland and New South Wales had been in drought for longer but there were still programs their governments had offered that would work in South Australia.

He also suggested the Government should reconsider a proposal to impose a property tax on pastoral areas.

Farmers call for action

The Bureau of Meterology said South Australia had experienced of the year on record.

Farmers in the north of the state, like Eudunda's Karl Zerner, have experienced their third year of drought.

Mr Zerner said he received less rainfall than last year and that the Government had a 'wait and see' approach to providing drought support.

Mr Zerner said farmers would welcome council or water rate relief as it would ease the financial stress, with thousands of dollars being spent on fodder.

"People are just getting tired and exhausted at the moment, having that relief would certainly make a huge difference," Mr Zerner said.

"The Government has to take action and try and implement something now.

"We've had minimal rainfall and it's all cross our fingers and hope we don't get too many more dust storms."


© ABC 2019

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