COONAMBLE NSW Mayor, Al Karanouh said his shire and many others need long-term strategic policy from state and federal governments that addresses drought funding in a way that drought-proofs the entire economy of regional areas.
Funding for economic diversification, tax cuts for small business and increased funding for community services are just some of the items on his wish list.
“The shire is in dire straits, farmers are in strife, there is just no rain,” he said.
“They have already used what income they had to support them for the last two years.
“The majority of shops and businesses are suffering, I would think many would have dropped 50 to 60 per cent of income.”
Cr Karanough said it was not only the farmers who are affected.
“Farmers are laying off staff now, they held on for a long time, but it is coming to the stage where they just can’t pay them,” he said.
“These farmhands and contractors will move on, they will leave the shire to get to a major centre, it is then very hard to bring them back.”
Cr Karanough said there was also a trickle down effect to town services when families moved on.
“For example, the less kids in the schools, the less funding we get, the less teachers we get,” he said.
Cr Kranough said there are solutions Federal and State governments could explore but it would take more than half or $1 million in ad-hoc funding and grants.
“It needs a long-term strategy to help the farmers and the business owners and the councils,” he said.
“They need to give significantly more funds to combat droughts.”
Cr Kranough said for instance, if the $444 million that was given to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation without a tender process, a subject of a senate enquiry earlier this year, why could similar levels of investment not be made in regional areas with a strategic and long-term outlook.
Tax cuts across affected areas, rather then payment plans, would help towns, businesses and farmers ride out the drought, Cr Kranough said.
“We should be a special case, tangibles that farmers and business people can see.”
Cr Karanough said investment in large infrastructure projects, such as solar farms and inland rail, could also stimulate the economy.