Bourke community and local representatives meet with NSW Drought Coordinator

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.