Communities battling the worst drought in decades will receive extra funding, as the federal government significantly ramps up its drought assistance measures.
Sixty drought-affected councils—36 in New South Wales, 22 in Queensland, and 2 in Victoria—will be given $1 million each to spend on anything from drinking water to building new community facilities.
The measure is part of the $1.8 billion emergency relief package, including $250 million in new money, announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today in Forbes, NSW.
The local councils will have access to a pool of $75 million to fund projects, including providing emergency water supplies.
“This is really important, to get some more cash into these communities, to do long overdue work of the type the councils are always attending to,” Turnbull said in a video on Facebook.
“That’s going to provide some more jobs and some more income into the town.”
Loans and Tax Breaks For Farmers
About $1 billion of this additional funding will be offered to farmers in the form of low-interest loans, which can be spent on fodder and water.
“These loans will assist with financing immediate needs such as purchasing feed and fodder,” the government said in a statement, the ABC reported.
“The first five years of these loans will remain interest-only.
“Farmers with existing government loans will also be able to refinance to take advantage of the interest-only concessional period.”
The current $1 million cap on low-interest loans will be doubled to $2 million. The total amount available for loans each year will also be doubled from $250 million to $500 million.
In a measure aimed at building drought resilience, farmers who invest in infrastructure to store livestock feed will also be given tax breaks, the prime minister said.
Farmers will immediately be able to deduct the costs for building new silos, hay sheds, or other storage structures, rather than let it depreciate over three years. This measure is on top of the existing $20,000 instant asset write-off for small businesses.
“One of the most important things to do if you’re on the land in Australia is to prepare for drought. And fodder storage, grain storage is absolutely critical,” Turnbull said.
“We’re changing the law to make that [silos and hay sheds] able to be written-off in one year.
“That’s providing even more incentive for farmers to put themselves in a position where they absolutely are giving themselves the best chance of getting through a drought.”
National Drought Co-ordinator Appointed
Retired Army Major-General Stephen Day has been appointed the federal government’s new national drought co-ordinator.
The former officer will help tie together the efforts of various bodies working in drought relief, including not-for-profit organisations, farming organisations, and the NSW Drought Co-ordinator.
“It’s very important to bring all of our efforts across all the affected regions together,” the prime minister said.
These further relief measures comes two weeks after Turnbull announced the federal government’s $190 million support package, which included lump-sum payments of $12,000 to struggling farmers through the Farm Household Allowance program.