PM announces Federal government funding for 'economies hardest hit'

WATER WORKS: Prime Minister Scott Morrison, pictured alongside Blayney mayor Scott Ferguson and David Littleproud, was in the region on Tuesday. Photo: JUDE KEOGH
WATER WORKS: Prime Minister Scott Morrison, pictured alongside Blayney mayor Scott Ferguson and David Littleproud, was in the region on Tuesday. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

ORANGE was the only Central West area not to fully benefit from a prime ministerial cash splash in the region aimed at reducing the effects of the drought, with the local government area directed to look to state funding for more water storage.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made his first visit to the city on Tuesday, together with Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud and Minister for Education Dan Tehan to attend a meeting of the board of the National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency.

Drought and North Queensland Floods Co-ordinator General Shane Stone confirmed up to four staff would move to Orange to start a regional office, which will use the base as a launch pad to meet with drought-affected communities.

But funding was short on the ground, with Mr Morrison's announcement of $1 million each for eligible drought-affected communities not benefiting the city.

Bathurst, Dubbo, Cabonne, Blayney, Parkes, Forbes, Cowra, Mid-Western and Oberon local government areas all qualified completed under the previous round of funding.

The funds are to be used to help boost tourism and add infrastructure, and Blayney used part of the previous round of funding with the construction of an undercover equestrian centre at the town's showground.

A criteria was used to distribute the funds, with the last two years of rainfall and the percentage of people who work in agriculture industry that live in that council area the main points.

The towns that won funding, around 17 per cent or more of their population works in the agriculture industry.

Mr Littleproud said the line had to be drawn somewhere and criteria took the past two years of rainfall into account and required 17 per cent of the workforce to work in agriculture-related jobs.

"This is not about anything other than stimulating those economies that are the hardest hit," he said.

"This is taxpayers' money, we have to be careful with it - we're going to continue this with other programs."

Mr Littleproud said the federal government would support the states, but building dams was a state responsibility.

"Sadly since 2003 there's only been 20 dams built in this country and 16 of them were in Tasmania," he said.

"The states own the resource and manage the resource - we want them to build dams."

Mr Tehan announced a further $10 million for independent schools to help parents in need afford fees, building on an initial $10 million announced before Christmas.

He said the extra funds would ensure relief for "most schools".

"In Orange I was meeting with one of the local schools there and the person who runs the finances said to me they're getting two to three calls a week from farmers saying they're struggling to pay the fee," he said.

"He said he doesn't want to say to those families that, 'we can no longer provide for your children'."