Federal drought-proof funds run dry in WA

Cally DupeCountryman
A dried up dam, near Ravensthorpe.
Camera IconA dried up dam, near Ravensthorpe. Credit: Zach Relph

WA’s share of a $50 million Federal Government scheme to help graziers droughtproof their farms has been exhausted, leaving producers without financial support as they deal with drought conditions.

The Government originally allocated $4.62m of the on-farm emergency water infrastructure rebate scheme for WA farmers with livestock, when the three-year scheme was opened last May.

Additional funding to WA was announced in January, increasing the total to $5.62m.

A fifth of the scheme — $9.49m — was set aside for graziers in Queensland.

Victorian farmers could apply for a portion of $4.06m, South Australian farmers $3.86m, Tasmanian farmers $2.10m, Northern Territory farmers $3m and Australian Capital Territory farmers $1.74m.

But WA farmers claimed their $5.62m allocation by May 12 and the Federal Government has allocated all $50m nationally.

Roe MLA Peter Rundle last week called for the State Government to reinstate the farm water rebate scheme, which was abolished by the McGowan Government in 2018.

That scheme rebated 50 per cent of the cost of farm water infrastructure and was funded by Royalties for Regions.

WA Water Minister Dave Kelly said the State had turned its focus to funding community water supplies rather than individual farmers.

Mr Kelly said he had written to the Federal Government to request more funding for WA farmers through the on-farm emergency water infrastructure rebate scheme.

“To date, the Federal Government has indicated that it will make no more funds available,” he said.

“I find that particularly disappointing because the Government has shown a propensity to provide significant funds to the Eastern States.

“We get a bigger bang for our buck if we fund community supplies because, often for a similar amount of money, we can bring online an old Water Corporation dam that instead of being available to one farmer, is available to a whole community.”

Figures obtained by the Advertiser show 941 applications were approved for WA farmers through the Federal Government scheme.

This included 931 by livestock producers and 10 by horticulture producers, averaging a $5441 rebate per application.

The Federal Government would have distributed $3.77m to WA farmers by the end of the 2019-20 financial year.

Another $1.6m has already been committed to WA projects and administration costs for the 2020-2021 financial year.

Originally for livestock farmers only, the scheme was expanded to include horticulture producers with permanent plantings in December. Successful applicants could claim 25 per cent of expenses, up to $25,000, for buying water infrastructure.

For graziers, this includes buying and installing water storage devices including tanks, troughs, pipes, fittings and pumps, new bores and hiring a contractor to de-silt dams.

For horticulture producers, expenses must relate to de-silting dams or drilling new groundwater bores and associated power supply.

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