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BATHURST, LITHGOW & ORANGE NEED TO BE A PART OF DROUGHT COMMUNITIES PROGRAMME

Federal Member for Calare, Andrew Gee said that while the recent round of drought relief announced by the Federal Government was badly needed and will be welcomed by the community, there have been glaring omissions.


Mr Gee said one initiative announced as part of the second round of drought assistance from the Federal Government was the Drought Communities Programme. The fund provides $1 million to councils to help communities affected by drought with local infrastructure projects and drought relief activities.


“This is an important initiative, which I support, but when it was announced there were some glaring omissions, including Bathurst Regional Council, Lithgow City Council and Orange City Council,” Mr Gee said.


“The Bathurst and Lithgow councils host significant farming communities that are hurting badly from this awful drought. While the Orange LGA has comparatively fewer farms, its businesses are still being hit hard. The knock-on effect from this drought is huge.”


Mr Gee said that as soon as the announcement was made he got on the phone to the responsible Minister, the Hon Dr John McVeigh, to highlight the problem.


“The Minister understood my frustration and to his credit, he has promised to work with me to fix it. I’m confident he will,” Mr Gee added.


“It’s even more frustrating that when the list was compiled, the bureaucrats who put it together according to some formula did not seek to consult with local members. It would not have killed them to pick up the phone. It’s simply not acceptable to leave some of our councils off the list, when everyone in the Central West is getting hammered by the drought.


“I have also raised the matter in The Nationals party room so the Deputy Prime Minister was aware of it and also during a speech to the Australian Parliament on Tuesday night. During my speech to the Parliament, I said it was unacceptable and called on all parties to get cracking to get it resolved.


“Although I sometimes shake my head at the things governments and bureaucrats do, I’m confident we can get it sorted and I’ll keep the community updated on progress. It’s just frustrating they didn’t get it right the first time.”