Human toll gives treasurer more to count than money
STANDING in a barren, bone dry dam in Cottonnvale on the Granite Belt, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the drought was "beyond anything we've seen before".
Mr Frydenberg was on a 'listening tour' of drought ravaged regions brought him to Stanthorpe on Friday.
"This is the worst drought in living memory and we need to ensure these communities are supported through these really tough times, when their backs are against a wall," the federal treasurer said.
"Whether it's in Stanthorpe or Warwick or in Inverell, we've been hearing the stories from people about the effects of this drought.
"The purpose of this trip was to listen to these stories and show the government cares and the Australian people care," he said.
While in town, shadowed by Member for Maranoa and Minister for Drought David Littleproud, the treasurer announced further funds to help horticulturalists.
Horticultural farmers with permanent plantings can now access the On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate, for the first time ever.
An additional $13.2 million in funding has been provided. Eligible farmers can claim up to 25 per cent of expenses up to $25,000 on projects such as installing new bores or desilting dams.
"This is the first time in this nations drought policy that we've extended this to horticulture," Minister Littleproud said.
"Despite my requests, the Queensland Government has refused to match our funding for horticulturalists in the state.
"They are treating horticulturalists in Queensland as second-class citizens.
"NSW has done a lot of heavy lifting but unfortunately Queensland hasn't really lifted a finger.
"This is beyond politics. Please, I am pleading with you. You have to match us. You have to come with us on this.
"This is not just about economics. This is about the human toll this drought is having on these people," he said.
One of those people being financially and mentally drained by the drought is apple producer Dino Rizzato.
Mr Rizzato, one of the Granite Belt's biggest horticulturalists, made the pain staking decision recently to rip out 10,000 apple trees.
A third generation farmer, he's been spending up to $40,000 per week on 100 loads of water to keep his crops alive.
"We have to be resilient," Mr Rizzato said.
"Any help we can get is much appreciated.
"We have to keep going. We've still got trees in the ground. It doesn't just stop."
Mr Frydenberg labelled Mr Rizzato a "great Australian success story".
"It's really tough. Not just for the farmers, but also the surrounding areas and the whole community - the businesses, the kids at school, jobs, everyone is affected," treasurer Frydenberg said.
"We will do more. We are working on some options but what we do know is there is money there already making its way into these communities.
"But this is going to be quite a long transition."
Mr Frydenberg also defended his government's stance on climate change.
"We accept the science around climate change and accept it's part of what we're seeing here today.
"Droughts are not new but the severity of this drought is the worst in living memory and we do accept the climate is changing and man is contributing to that," he said.
The rebate scheme can be accessed through the relevant state or territory agricultural department.