Drought working group announced

By Jamie Salter

Federal Drought Minister David Littleproud has developed a new working group that will integrate Commonwealth, state and territory drought relief programs.

The working group was announced at a meeting for drought and agriculture ministers in Moree, in northern NSW, on Tuesday, December 10.

The new group is a partnership with National Drought Agency and the National Farmers’ Federation to prevent overlap and inefficiencies for farm recovery programs.

Mr Littleproud said the new group would lead to increased transparency and "less red tape".

“We have a responsibility to ensure that drought assistance is complementary at the different levels of government, and not working against other assistance measures,” he said.

“This is a step forward in the way the system is being delivered and I have great confidence a new drought commissioner (Shane Stone) will be able to fully inform our farmers and communities about what is available.”

NFF president Fiona Simson had appealed for the collaboration between state and federal governments and said the current situation was "very confusing".

“You have a myriad of forms to fill in, you have a mass of different schemes that you can apply for; they all require different processes,” she said.

The new drought co-ordinator-general, Shane Stone, who was the former Northern Territory chief minister, said he understood the increased urgency for assistance over the summer period and aimed to ease the process for farmers.

“It's about simplification, that is to make it easier for people to access the support that is on offer,” he said.

Mr Littleproud said he was preparing for a 12-month drought.

“And if you understand drought, it extends past the farm gate into these communities that support them, and it's important we understand we have a holistic approach, a suite of measures; there's just not one silver bullet to this apart from rain,” he said.

The drought working group will report back to the Ministerial Council in February.