A state-CONTROLLED office dedicated to drought is being hailed as the solution to make sure the government is doing everything it can to help regional communities survive the big dry.
But the plan has already come under fire from residents in Maitland and across the state.
The government has dumped NSW Drought Coordinator Jock Laurie and abolished the role. The highly respected former National Farmers Federation president had been listening to farmers on the ground and relaying their concerns since December.
The new office will send employees from a range of government departments into drought-ravaged regions to offer the same "on the ground' approach", a spokesman for Deputy Premier John Barilaro revealed.
He said the structure of the new office was still being developed - but there was no timeline to show when it would open its doors.
"We're in a crisis right now. He was a representative for people on the ground and he was accountable. If it is hidden in a government department there is no accountability," Slow Food Hunter Valley Earth Market chairwoman Amorelle Dempster said.
Why not have someone people trust and who is accountable rather than government trying to set things up in the middle of a crisis. They are letting people down, people who are in such a bad place and it's going to get so much worse. The uncertainty continues without the right help.
In a shock twist Mr Barilaro's spokesman confirmed Mr Laurie would not continue as NSW Land and Water Commissioner - an independent role he has held since December 2012.
That role will not be scrapped and a replacement will be sought.
In other news:
Mr Laurie was appointed drought coordinator by then Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair and asked to report to him. The initial coordinator, Pip Job, served in the role between May and December and reported to Mr Blair.
Something shifted when the Coalition was re-elected in March and Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall took the reins. A spokesman for Mr Marshall told the Mercury Mr Laurie did not report to his office and pointed to Water Minister Melinda Pavey.
When the Mercury contacted Ms Pavey a spokeswoman said he reported to her office and to Mr Marshall and Mr Barilaro.
Mr Laurie ran for preselection for the seat of the Northern Tablelands in 2013 and lost to Mr Marshall, who went on to become the Northern Tablelands MP. The Mercury was unable to contact Mr Laurie for comment.
"When drought affected communities say they want hope, it means they want to be able to trust the government has a plan and that they will resource it, and refine it properly and transparently to ensure it works," Maitland MP and Shadow Minister for Primary Industries Jenny Aitchison said.
The office is supposed to bring all departments and ministers to the same table under the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. Mr Barilaro, Mr Marshall and Ms Pavey will be the main players.
Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean, Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes and Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock would also have a seat at the table, Mr Barilaro's spokesman said.
If there are issues around mental health, education, within primary industries, water, there will be lines of communication going directly from the ground to the Office of Drought Response that will form policy and have an immediate response to those issues.
"There will be a role for ministers across the board to have an eye on what is happening in the regions and drought support."
The spokesman said the government employees who went into regional communities would be tasked with a role similar to Regional Town Water Supply Coordinator James McTavish, who was appointed in January to make sure residents had access to safe and acceptable drinking water.
"James McTavish is the best example of this at the moment," he said.
"He goes out, reports what he finds, make recommendations and we respond quite urgently to his requests.
"Someone from within each department will be nominated to have a hands on role."