November 22 is D-Day for the state’s drought-stricken farmers.
MPs in the NSW Legislative Assembly will debate drought measures put forward in a statewide petition that collected 21,000 signatures.
The petition, started by The Maitland Mercury and supported by sister Fairfax Media newspapers across NSW, will be debated at 4.30pm on Thursday.
Farmers and their supporters will be able to visit this website to watch the parliamentarians discuss the proposed measures, which include allowing fire trucks to cart water to farms to nourish stock and crops, and offering a 50 per cent farm household water subsidy.
It comes at a crucial time. The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a 70 per cent chance of an El Nino developing in the coming months.
That would put a renewed drought on top of what is already considered one of the worst in NSW in decades.
Many parts of the state have not seen decent rainfall all year and are already enduring water shortages.
Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison will speak about the petition before it is discussed. Three MPs will then be allowed to talk, with the entire debate concluding after 16 minutes.
Upper Hunter farmer Cassandra McLaren, the founder of One Day Closer to Rain, said water would be a huge issue for farmers over summer and more needed to be done to help farmers nourish breeding stock and crops.
She called on the government to reduce red tape and allow fire trucks to carry water for stock and crop use within their community.
“We are going to see the demand for water increase again and that will put pressure on the extremely low water supplies, which are less than what we had last summer,” she said.
Some areas have allowed the use of fire trucks but it isn’t a blanket approach for all areas. As rivers have dried up over winter and dams continue to dry up, if they haven’t already dried up, it’s going to put more pressure on the underground supply which has been unable to replenish itself.
“We need options, the existing commercial options aren’t sufficient to fill the demand.”
Ms McLaren said fire trucks were a government resource that sat idle when not in use.
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“We have got these resources in the community that are often lying in idle in wait that could help ease the demand,” she said.
This is an ever-evolving situation and we need to stay ahead of the game and be looking forward instead of dealing with stuff that should have been dealt with six months ago.
The petition, which started in June, also asked the government to implement a range of measures designed to help relieve some of the pressures farming families were facing at that time.
Almost two months after the petition started the government offered primary producers a 50 per cent subsidy for the transport of fodder, water for livestock or moving animals for sale, slaughter or to other pastures. It is capped at $20,000 per primary producer.
The government also offered a low-interest loan which primary producers can use to collect livestock genetics, and also waived Local Land Service annual rates.
The seven points in the petition were penned after speaking with farmers across NSW who are involved with different types of farming.