Together with other community members and representatives of the Local Land Services and the Rural Financial Counselling Service, I had the opportunity to meet with Pip Job, New South Wales Drought Coordinator.
The meeting was a fact finding exercise to some extent, but there was a genuine desire to hear the views of those present who were representative of a large section of the shire.
The fact that any emphasis on drought seems to only come when the more heavily populated areas find themselves drought impacted was a source of frustration as quite often by this stage those in the West of the State have been experiencing drought for a considerable time.
While the meeting covered a range of topics the following is a summary of the main issues:-
The lack of any formalised system to see an area declared as drought impacted as previously existed.
The lack of a policy to identify what assistance may be available following the declaration of an area as drought impacted.
The reliability of the data utilised in the preparation of drought maps.
The fact that you can’t identify areas purely by lines on maps and "ground truthing" is essential.
The need to recognise how quickly areas in the west of the state fall into drought conditions.
The impact of the current kangaroo population on available feed.
The need to treat drought as a natural disaster similar to that for flood or bushfire.
The fact that the provision of low interest loans only increases the debt burden.
The fact drought has a significant impact across the broader community not just farmers.
The physical and mental health of those involved is put at risk.
The issues caused to the unsealed road network causing some roads to be untrafficable to large trucks impacting on both stock movements and the ability to truck in fodder.
To look at the possible introduction of a “zonal taxation” rate at a much lower for those businesses, farmers and individuals in the western division to encourage investment in the area and ensure that those on the land can build up a resilience to the issues caused by drought.