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  • Writer's pictureDave Layzell MP


Upper Hunter MP Dave Layzell and Shadow Water Minister Steph Cooke have taken the Minns Labor Government to task for its lack of drought preparedness as hot, dry weather tightens the grip of drought on the state.

They have spoken out after Water Minister Rose Jackson confirmed the NSW Government is all talk and no action when it comes to providing support for rural and regional communities already suffering from the impact of drought.

Ms Cooke, the Member for Cootamundra, said she was alarmed by the Minister’s response to Budget Estimates questions, around what the government is actively doing to help those already suffering from dry conditions.

“By her own admission, as the Water Minister she has a ‘significant’ role to play in the government’s response to this looming crisis, and yet the best she could come up with when asked what the plan going forward is, was that agency meetings have kicked off, and the public service has been briefed,” Ms Cooke said.

“It appears Labor’s approach to this emerging crisis is drought preparation by committee.

“Just over 50 per cent of the state is now either drought-declared or drought-affected, and yet the Minister is still sitting around talking about it.

Mr Layzell raised the emerging situation with NSW Nationals Leader and Minister for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Regional NSW, Dugald Saunders in July.

“We met with farmers at Rouchel, Scone, Singleton and Merriwa, many were struggling in winter when they told us they were slipping back into drought and needed government to be across the situation,” Mr Layzell said.

“I have been calling for the Minister for Agriculture to come to the Upper Hunter Electorate but in the meantime the countryside has recently been ablaze with fires scorching farms at Scone, Baerami, Ravensworth and Bretti.”

Ms Cooke and Mr Layzell are asking where is the targeted support; where are the rural support workers, and financial counselling services? What about rural resilience programs, and skills and training subsidies?

“We’ve known these dry conditions have been coming for months now; the government should have had a plan in place a long time ago,” Ms Cooke added.

“Not only does the government not seem to have a drought preparation and support plan in place for our rural and regional communities, the Minister admitted that the government has all but abandoned the vital Safe and Secure Water Program, which was set up by the previous Coalition Government to support critical water infrastructure in towns and villages in rural and regional areas, to help safeguard against critical water shortages in dry periods like this.

“While we were in government, the Coalition announced around $2 billion worth of drought support in the form of highly successful programs like the Farm Innovation Fund – a vital program to help regional communities survive difficult times like drought.

“At a time when the risk to water supply and security is becoming more acute by the day, the Minister’s cavalier approach to this program is deeply concerning.

“Unlike the current government, the previous NSW Coalition Government stood in solidarity with our farmers and rural and regional communities; we knew what needed to be done.”

PICTURE CAPTION: Merriwa’s Peter Campbell hosted a visit by Upper Hunter MP Dave Layzell and NSW Nationals Leader Dugald Saunders in July 2023.


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