Drought response plan released

By Country News

The Federal Government's Drought Response Plan was released on Thursday, November 7, with the aim of preparing the nation for future droughts.

The plan said Australian farmers were enduring the worst drought on record and there was a grim outlook for the future.

It responds to 12 recommendations by Coordinator-General for Drought Stephen Day.

Key elements:

● The Farm Household Allowance will provide a fortnightly payment, with a total of $105 266 over four years per household where both partners are on FHA. The allowance is now available four years in every 10 and off-farm income offset has been increased from $80 000 to $100 000.

● The National Water Infrastructure Development Fund will invest $6.5 million from 2019 to 2022 for the project, Assessing the Status of Groundwater in the Great Artesian Basin.

● One hundred gigalitres of water will be made available at $100/Ml in the southern connected Murray–Darling Basin to increase the production of fodder.

● A review on the effectiveness of the Farm Management Deposits Scheme (which assists farmers in dealing with fluctuations in cash flows) will be undertaken in 2020–21 to inform any future changes.

● To fund drought-resilience initiatives, $100 million will be available from 2020–21, and a committee will be established to advise on the Drought Resilience Funding Plan.

The plan said climate change, drought and population growth would cause added pressure on future water availability.

“Climate change, and the increased frequency and severity of drought in some regions, is considered the most serious threat to land management,” it said.

“This is because natural resources degraded during drought, when they are particularly vulnerable, will likely have less time to recover before the next significant dry period."

In response, a new National Water Grid Authority has been established to develop a water infrastructure plan that will create an integrated water supply network.

The government will also aim to focus on good management of soils and vegetation to build drought resilience by investing in natural resource management programs.

The new drought plan is set to be reviewed in 2022–23.