Region’s farmers left high and dry by federal water minister

NORTHERN Tablelands MP and Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall has on Thursday slammed the Commonwealth Government, following the decision to withdraw funding from its Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate scheme (EWIR), leaving hundreds of expectant farmers across the State high and dry.

The EWIR is a Commonwealth program, administered by the NSW Rural Assistance Authority (RAA), which allows primary producers to access a 25 per cent rebate, up to $25,000, on new purchases and installation costs of new water infrastructure on their farms.

A furious Mr Marshall said the decision by the Commonwealth to abandon the successful program was extremely disappointing, especially after the NSW Government announced and extra $310 million to boost and continue drought relief measures only weeks ago.

“The drought and its devastating impacts are far from over and I cannot believe the Federal Water Minister has delivered what equates to a massive kick in the guts to our farmers at this time,” Mr Marshall said.

“As a State, we’ve found an extra $310 million to continue all our drought support measures and all we are asking the Feds for is another $9.1 million to honour their promise and continue providing rebates under the scheme until 30 June this year.

“This will ensure that no farmer who has already applied, in good faith, for their rebate under the scheme will miss out.

“This drought is bigger than any one jurisdiction, so it would be good to see the Commonwealth Government come to the table for the benefit of our farmers.

“It’s extraordinary behaviour for the Commonwealth to take their bat and ball and go home midway through the innings – it might be news to them, but the drought is far from over!

“The EWIR is a great drought program that has been hugely popular in our region, by helping farmers make their properties more water efficient and more resilient for the next inevitable extended dry period.”

Mr Marshall said there were currently 140 applications, worth more than $2.3 million, across the Northern Tablelands, as well as the Tenterfield LGA,  that risk going unfunded unless the Commonwealth Government reconsidered the NSW Government’s request for additional funding to continue the EWIR.

“The most aggravating factor is that many primary producers applied for the EWIR on the understanding that the program would continue through 2020-21 as originally announced,” Mr Marshall said.

“On behalf of farmers in our region, I’m pleading with the Commonwealth Government to urgently re-consider the NSW Government’s request for additional funding to continue this crucial program.”

Since 2018, more than 2800 primary producers across NSW have received $16.8 million for rebates on eligible work and the RAA currently holds applications to the value of $6.1 million in excess of Commonwealth funding.

Details on the number of applications (farmers) left without a rebate under the scheme due to the Commonwealth decision is below.

Media Release: June 4, 2020