Drought funds begin to roll out to councils

Drought funds begin to roll out to councils

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RELIEF AHEAD: Federal Local Government Minister Bridget McKenzie and federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey at Cowell.

RELIEF AHEAD: Federal Local Government Minister Bridget McKenzie and federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey at Cowell.

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SAs regional and rural councils have begun to receive their share of funding through the federal governments Drought Communities Program and Eyre Peninsula councils are among the first to have projects approved.

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SAs regional and rural councils have begun to receive their share of funding through the federal governments Drought Communities Program, and Eyre Peninsula councils are among the first to have projects approved.

The program initially excluded SA, but later 17 councils, including 13 in the Grey electorate, that have been affected by drought conditions have received $1 million each to fund local projects to help rebuild communities.

District Council of Franklin Harbour chief executive officer Chris Smith said council had applied for about $970,000 of funding and removing soil drift from local roads was the first project approved by the federal government.

The first grant of $220,000 to fix the soil drift was approved at the beginning of December and we have almost finished the work, he said.

We compacted the drift and put rubble on top, we have chosen not to return it to the paddocks.

The council has also applied for funding to maintain a drought coordinator until June 30, 2019.

We have built a profile on all of our farming families so we know who needs emergency help, who can get by and who will be able to sow a crop next year, Mr Smith said.

We need to maintain our coordinator because our next concern is April next year and whether or not our farmers have it in them to get through another season.

Councils big ticket item that requires significant funding is the Coolanie Water Scheme to help provide water for 22 farmers.

PIRSA and SA Water have joined forces with council to apply for $1.5m of federal funding, $430,000 of which will be sought by council through the Drought Communities Program.

The farmers rely on dams and roof water so when you only have 93 millimetres of rainfall in some seasons, they are carting water at $20 a kilolitre, Mr Smith said.

District Council of Cleve CEO Peter Arnold said council had applied for $190,000 to remove soil from roads in the area.

Soil removal will be one of the first projects but a number of community groups and sporting groups have come together and put together a very comprehensive list of projects, he said.

Council are also considering applying for funding to employ a drought program coordinator. It would be a six-month part-time position which will involve visiting property owners and business owners to make sure they are taking advantage of the concessions and additional support available.

Federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey said he lobbied fiercely to ensure SA received the same support as eastern states, with EP farmers desperate plea to remove soil from roads as the main driver that got the deal signed-off.

These councils were allocated on a formula which took into account rainfall deficiency and the percentage of the population reliant on agriculture directly for income, he said.

For the couple of councils that missed out, I am working with the minister to see whether we can get them across the line.

Mr Ramsey said the funding recognised the effect of drought on the wider community.

Its the tradesmen and business suppliers who need to keep their doors open so the grants are here to support community, he said.

Member for Flinders Peter Treloar said discussions between state and federal governments had also resulted in $50m for on-farm water infrastructure and a further $13.5m for mental wellness.

Dry seasons have a significant impact on cash flow of farm and businesses. It can take a long time for businesses to recover, even after it does rain, so we need to keep peoples spirit up, he said.

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