The ongoing impacts of the drought and recent bushfires were top of the agenda when Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack met with Wellington Shire Council, and local Federal member Darren Chester on Wednesday.
Wellington Shire Mayor Alan Hall, CEO David Morcom and Economic Development Officer Mark Coleman painted a detailed picture of the impact not only on farmers and the wider agricultural sector, but also those in businesses such as retail who were directly feeling the impact of a downturn in local spending.
The Deputy PM was also briefed about how Councils and other agencies were working together to try and assist those impacted by the drought.
The Commonwealth Government has provided $1 million in direct assistance to Council to provide support, which has allowed Council to roll out direct assistance programs like free cartage of potable water to farm households.
To date, Council has received around 350 phone calls from farm households wanting to take up the offer, as their potable water supplies diminish.
Mayor Alan Hall said he also advised the Deputy Prime Minister that Council had passed a formal motion to write to the Premier Daniel Andrews seeking an immediate escalation of the status of the drought in Wellington Shire from moderate to severe.
“If this escalation was approved, it would provide freight and fodder subsidies and other forms of financial assistance to our farming community, as outlined in the Victorian Drought Preparedness and Response Plan,” he said.
“The Deputy PM also assured us that Canberra was well-aware of the issues we are facing down here in Wellington, due to strong advocacy on behalf of Member for Gippsland Darren Chester.
“We are pleased Michael McCormack decided to see our region for himself and speak to those directly affected, because sometimes is can seem as though we have been forgotten in the wider narrative of drought in Australia.”