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Government acknowledges it got it wrong on Moira Shire drought grant

Warwick Long, Friday November 1, 2019 - 14:25 EDT
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The Federal Government has reversed a drought grant decision it made against the Moira Shire in Victoria earlier this year. - ABC

A small rural shire in northern Victoria that "wasn't agricultural enough" for a Federal Government drought grant is rejoicing after the decision was reversed.



It was discovered during recent Senate Estimates in Canberra that the Moira Shire did not qualify for a $1 million Federal Government drought grant because it had an agricultural employment rate of 16.9 per cent, not the required 17 per cent.

That was a surprise to the community, which sits along the Murray River in Australia's food-bowl region of the Murray-Darling Basin, and has a long history of agricultural production and processing.

The Government announced it had changed its mind at a media event with Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Nationals, Michael McCormack.

Local Nationals MP and Member for Nicholls, Damian Drum, said that the Minister in charge would step in and the shire would get a grant.

"I have informed Moira Shire that they are going to be included in this drought assistance package," he said.

"There is an opportunity for Minister's discretion and David [Drought Minister David Littleproud] has used that.

"We have to put this through in a proper way and that is happening right now."



'Serious trouble'

Moira Shire Mayor Councillor Libro Mustica said he was pleased to finally have word that the money would come to them.

"I was pretty confident we were going to get it all along," Cr Mustica said.

"We are the ones that were in drought, they knew that sooner or later that they had to commit to it.

"We are in serious trouble in this part of the world.

"There are a lot of farmers who have missed several crops last year and this year, there are all sorts of problems."



Cr Mustica has added that the shire plans to speak to the community about how it will spend the funds.

The grant program has been controversial.

Earlier this year the it was awarded because it was no longer in drought.

Some rural councils struggling to get a reason why they were rejected by the Government were surprised to hear there was agricultural employment criteria attached to the applications at all and have been busily renewing their push for funds.

Decision being reviewed

The Department of Infrastructure confirmed that it was using 2016 figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to make a judgement on agricultural employment in the local government areas.

The Singleton, Yass, Kiama, Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla shires in New South Wales have all been rejected and are awaiting a review.

Mr Drum alluded to what could be good news for those shires, saying Moira would not be the only shire the Drought Minister would use his powers to grant funds to as part of the program.

"There are other shires that have also been included because they are so close on the mathematics and the barriers," he said.


- ABC

© ABC 2019

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