HELP NEEDED: Stephen Hildred is worried drought money will go into the wron hands.
HELP NEEDED: Stephen Hildred is worried drought money will go into the wron hands. Marian Faa

How will our council spend $1m drought handout?

"RICH” hobby farmers could get an unfair share of drought money while "real” farmers are left with nothing, Warwick residents have warned.

It was announced on Sunday that Southern Downs Regional Council and 60 other drought-affected local governments around Australia would each receive $1 million from the Federal Government to help deal with the ongoing dry conditions.

Councils will have the freedom to spend the money however they see fit.

But Warwick business-owner Stephen Hildred said means testing was needed to ensure help went to people who need it most.

Southern Downs Regional Councillors will discuss drought management in a council meeting this Wednesday.
Southern Downs Regional Councillors will discuss drought management in a council meeting this Wednesday. Marian Faa

"There is a lot of needy farmers and there are also a lot of rich farmers who are also working in town and getting a wage,” Mr Hildred said.

"You see it all the time. Hobby farmers, they are the first to cry out and the good old fair dinkum farmers won't say anything at all.

"In my mind there is a very big distinction between the hobby farmer and the real farmer and you have got to get the money to the real farmer.”

Seeking advice from the community on how it would like to see the money spent, Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said she would call a community forum as soon as the criteria for the $1 million package had been finalised.

Cr Dobie emphasised the importance of the local economy, which had suffered as a result of the drought.

"Our number one priority is to keep our economy going,” she said.

"Wild" Bill Ellis has been keeping condition on his cattle by feeding them hay. Marian Faa

"We have to make sure every business in our region is continuing to function.”

As the owner of a lawnmower and chainsaw business on Albion St, Mr Hildred has seen firsthand the toll that drought has taken on local business.

"It has been hard, new sales are down so we are definitely notice it,” he said. "Poor old farmer Joe out there will only spend what they have to. They are not going to go out of their way to buy anything else.”

The council's drought response will be discussed at a council meeting on Wednesday.

Measures to be discussed include waiving infrastructure fees at the Warwick Saleyards, which the mayor said could save the agricultural industry up to $10,000.

The council will also consider waiving the hiring fees for spray units, investigate the option to better utilise the extraction of water from bores, and possibilities for cutting back on the use of urban water in various council operations.

"I would like to ask everyone to try to be positive, there are a lot of people helping now with drought,” the mayor said.

"But if anyone has any concern and needs any help please get in contact with Rural Aid.”

Rural aid has a five-pronged approach to help with fuel food, fodder, financial support and family support.

Rural Aid has counsellors on the ground in the Southern Downs. Contact Rural Aid's local officer Jenny Jensen on 0476 056 194.



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