Drought funding committed

RELATED: Shires welcome funds

The Victorian government has responded to thousands of submissions from communities struggling through drought with a $10 million drought support fund, announced on Wednesday.

Communities set to benefit in central Victoria include the Loddon, Buloke and Central Goldfields shires.

The money makes up part of $27 million in drought funding announced by the state government in November, and represents the chunk of that funding which was set aside for priorities identified by local communities.

Minister for Regional Development Jaala Pulford said through extensive consultation, measures that focus on community health and wellbeing and preparedness to deal with the impacts of long-term drought had been identified as among those priorities.

She said there was also considerable support for measures that had broad community benefits, such as community precincts and investing in agricultural traineeships for school leavers.

“The Andrews Labor government’s Drought Support Fund is a direct response to the community,” she said.

“Farmers and regional communities called for support in helping small businesses and in proofing long-term against drought.

“This package recognises and respects that.”

Along with Environment, Water, and Climate Change Minister Lisa Neville, Ms Pulford said she had consulted with communities hit hard by the drought during the past three months.

She said the consultation included face-to-face community discussions with farming groups, submissions and letters, an online forum with more than 3300 participants and 20,000 votes, and surveys which received 226 responses.

Ms Neville said the drought employment program in particular had been so successful demand had outstripped supply.

“The program plays a crucial role in assisting farmers earn an income while also helping to protect environmental assets under threat from drying conditions,” she said.

“We know water is crucial to our communities – to our sporting ovals, our hospitals, our schools and our industries.”

Almost $3 million of the funding has been earmarked for sports and recreation grants, and Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events John Eren said the government was giving drought affected communities the sport and recreation facilities they deserve.

“We know grassroots sport brings regional communities together and boosts morale,” he said.

“We want all Victorians to enjoy the great benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle, no matter where they live.”

Programs funded in the announcement include:

  • Drought Employment Program ($3.15 million) – employing farmers, farm workers and individuals affected by drought to undertake environmental projects.
  • Drought Extension Program ($655,000) – accelerating delivery of additional farm information and advisory services to support farmers during drought and dry seasons.
  • Stock Containment Areas Program ($620,500) – providing eligible farmers with grants of up to $2000 and technical support to implement stock containment areas.
  • Community Events ($120,000) – providing local councils with continued support to implement important community events that bring people together and promote drought impacted regions. 
  • Dedicated Small Business services, agriculture traineeships for school leavers and farm risk management grants.
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