Roughly 99 per cent of NSW and more than 58 per cent of Queensland are officially in drought; one of the worst endured in the last 100 years. As the earth cracks and water tanks run dry, the Federal Government answered calls for help by announcing a $190 million relief package on Sunday.
The funding includes two additional payments of up to $12,000 made to those eligible for the existing Farm Household Allowance welfare scheme, as well as an extra $5 million to the Rural Financial Counselling Service. The latter aims to provide more mental health support for farmers, particularly those applying for the allowance for the first time.
“You put the food on our tables, the fibre that goes on our backs and we have your back — we’re supporting you,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said.
But some farmers say the package is simply too little, too late.
“To be honest, that’s absolutely nothing,” Queensland farmer Ashley Gamble told 9 News. “$12,000 doesn’t even buy a load of grain.”
The Toowoomba man’s dairy farm has halved production – and his income – and he’s been forced to kill hundreds of stock due to the lack of feed.
“We ring two to three hundred people every day [seeking feed] and we get the same answers. They don’t have any or have sold it all,” the father-of-three said.
He told the network he’s spent $400,000 on buying feed and is losing approximately $3000 every day. He has set up a GoFundMe page to help ease the burden.
“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” he said. “It’s like you’re in jail, you turn up because you gotta turn up. It’s just depressing.”
The new payments, which will be made on 1 September 2018 and 1 March 2019, will see couples in an eligible household receive up to an additional $12,000 and single households up to $7,200.
The assets test to determine eligibility has also been widened from $2.6 million to $5 million, which the government believes will make about 8000 more households eligible.