Dubbo farmers suffering from unrelenting conditions on the land received a crushing blow yesterday with news their last-ditch appeal to receive Exceptional Circumstance (EC) funding had been rejected.
The news comes as a bitter end to a long wait for a rollover of EC, after 12 areas of NSW appealed a decision to cease their drought-relief assistance.
During the past 48 hours, staff from the department of agriculture contacted farmers in all affected areas to alert them to the results of their funding appeal, and an official announcement was made yesterday by Parkes MP John Cobb.
“Unfortunately, areas to the south and the west of Dubbo have been refused funding,” John Cobb said.
“But I will go back to Warren Truss (minister for agriculture), and ask him to look at it again.”
But Mr Cobb refused to rate his chances of reversing the decision, after a long process of assessment and subdivision of Rural Lands Protection Boards (RLPB) areas on advice by the National Rural Advisory Council.
“I’m hoping that commonsense will help, but they really need to come down here and see the place for themselves,” he said.
For Dubbo farmer Gloria Brown, the news was devastating.
“This has been an extremely stressful period, and it’s not good news for the whole community,” she said.
“But the worst part is the waiting. We’ve been waiting since December for the Government to announce this, and we’ve been unable to plan in the meantime.”
The sentiment is echoed by Narelle Rodway from the Dubbo RLPB, which had not been officially notified of the decision when contacted by the Daily Liberal yesterday afternoon.
“I’m extremely disappointed, we feel our application for an extension was justified,” she said.
“We have been drought declared for just over one year, and EC funding is meant to provide relief during one year of drought, and then again for one year of recovery.”
But Ms Brown has not given up the fight. On hearing the bad news she drove straight to Dubbo MP Dawn Fardell’s office.
“I’m going to try and get a delegation to go to Canberra and see Warren Truss,” she said.
“I’m going to invite Dawn, and we’re going to fight this decision.”
While Dubbo farmers are trying to figure out how they’ll manage without the funding, farmers in Nyngan are breathing a sigh of relief, with all sub-areas of the Nyngan RLPB area receiving a rollover of EC funding, backdated to December 9 last year.
This follows a delegation headed by the Bogan Shire mayor Ray Donald in Canberra that met with the deputy prime minister John Anderson after advice the Nyngan RLPB area was no longer eligible for EC funding.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Mr Donald said.
“But now almost 200 people here will be particularly relieved. Whole families have been under enormous stress since December last year.”
But Mr Donald was scathing about the “serious lack of understanding of all involved that it has taken this long”.
He also sympathised with the areas that were rejected, including Dubbo, and said the criteria were “terribly selective”.
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