Genuine concern to come up with something appropriate to help drought affected farmers

The electorate of Parkes in NSW covers almost half of the state and a majority of the towns within the area are either ‘in drought’, ‘drought onset’ or on ‘drought watch’, according to the Combined Drought Indicator (CDI).

According to the CDI Nyngan, Louth, Cobar, Brewarrina, Broken Hill, Wellington, Yeoval, Orange, Blayney, Oberon, and Coonabarabran were in drought.

Bourke and Warialda were in ‘drought watch’ while Walgett, Coonamble, Dubbo and Trundle were drough ‘drought onset’.

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Parkes MP Mark Coulton said some people have been in the drought much longer than others.

“Warialda is probably one of the later places to be coming into it compared to the southern end of the electorate where they had the 2016 flood and then tow dry years since,” he said.

“It’s really starting to bite in some places down around Condobolin and those areas.

Mr Coulton said he’s been told it’s the driest “May to May in 90 years at Broken Hill.”

“So it really is starting to bite everywhere.”

Mr Coulton was with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this month when he visited the drought affected Trangie region.

While no new financial assistance was announced the aim of the visit was to speak with local farmers.

“One of the things discussed with the Prime Minister and myself was that it is arduous filling out the (drought assistance) forms,” he said.

“There’s a genuine concern to now come up with something appropriate and also make people aware that there is assistance.”

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Mr Coulton said the affect of the drought on farmers was not only widespread, but contrasting

“Everyone’s affected differently because the grain producers probably haven’t spent a lot of money. Some have dry sown but its’s worrying because it’s getting late for planting,” he said.

“And the livestock producers are spending a fortunate at the moment on feeding stock or making tough decisions to feed or sell…

“Across all the four (cotton growing) Valley’s they’ve had a pretty good cotton harvest.. it’s putting a little bit of money and activity in those towns with truck drivers and the like...”

Mr Coulton encouraged farmers to investigate their options.

“I think whats happening is their self-assessing or someone says there’s no point in applying and they really should make their own investigations.. and get onto the Rural Financial Counselling Service and find out what’s available,” he said.

Livestock producers selling stock because of the drought, which is treated as income and  the taxation department treats that income differently… but Centrelink doesn’t. So they might fine tune some of the eligibility because that’s a serious problem.

“Because if you’ve sold a lot of stock because of the drought then it looks like you’re income is up but you’ll know you’ll be wearing the pain next year when you go buy them back again.”

Mr Coulton said the challenge now was to help people who need it the most and in a way that will help them the best.

“And everyone’s circumstances are different… but as it goes on there’s a limit to how long you can prepare for,” he said.

“As it goes into a couple of years, as it it in some areas, then it doesn’t matter what preparations you make, you’re in difficulty territory.