Cash cards for local relief
Victoria’s Wellington Shire is giving farmers pre-loaded $700 debit cards to boost local economies.
While many drought-affected farmers need thousands just to feed their stock, Wellington Shire Mayor Alan Hall said the cards at least showed that farmers are being looked out for.
The decision to give out pre-loaded cash cards came from consultations with farmers by the council over what to do with $1 million in drought support.
Gippsland farmers have hit the third year of a ‘green drought’, in which paddocks look green but struggle with weeds and low rain.
Some farmers have questioned why the first real help they have received is from the local government, not the State Government.
The Victorian Government’s $50 million package includes On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support Grants of up to $5,000, technical assistance from Agriculture Victoria, and free financial counselling.
The East Gippsland and Wellington Shires have been deemed to be in ‘drought’, meaning farmers in those areas are eligible for one-off support payments of up to $3,500 and pasture recovery grants of up to $5,000.
Victoria's Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said she welcomed any extra support local councils could provide.
“To come up with a million dollars to dedicate to their farmers is a great initiative, which complements the work my department and the government have been doing in their region,” she said.
“Obviously we haven't had the rain in the Gippsland region that I would have liked, so we will be considering further support in the coming months.”
Wellington Shire councillor Carmel Ripper fought back tears when introducing the $700 debit card scheme at a recent meeting.
“Today the Wellington Shire has made history, this is the first time that this money of $1 million has ever been allocated to farmers,” she said.
“We've made history today.”
Ms Ripper said the application process had been made as simple as possible.
“I am sure some of the farmers have filled out so many forms, they've had it up to pussy's bow,” she said.
“So we are going to make it as easy as possible for them.”
Farmers have until October 30 to apply for the cards, and the money must be spent by December 31.