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Committee seeks answers for drought resilience

THE Future Drought Fund Consultative Committee have kicked off a nation-wide round of public consultations.

Committee members met with representatives from the Wimmera region in Horsham on Tuesday to have initial discussions regarding their Drought Resilience Funding Plan 2020 to 2024.  

The FDF committee is supporting initiatives which better prepare Australian farms and communities in times of drought. 

The plan considers issues surrounding climate change, drought, farm management and global and domestic markets in it’s response. 

This includes investing in research and innovation, adopting new and existing technology and improving environmental and resource management. 

The FDF will provide $100 million every year from July 1 2020, for new investment in drought resilience and preparedness. 

The FDF begins with an initial credit of $3.9 billion with earnings to be reinvested until the balance reaches $5 billion; it is expected to be delivered over the next decade. 

FDF Consultant Committee member and Chairperson for BCG Caroline Welsh said the consultations will examine how communities can become more equipped to a changing environment. 

“With the future drought fund the key challenge is how we respond to how droughts are becoming more frequent and harsher due to climate change and how we respond to that,” Ms Welsh said. 

“This will apply not just individual farming businesses but rural communities as well.” 

Victorian Farmer Federation Warracknabeal Branch President David Drage said the issues farmers face is diverse and it’s difficult to determine what exactly needs to be done. 

“I think the problem is we don’t know what we want, most farmers around me say they want better roads and better communication. But we don’t have enough capacity to dig down and find out what is really required to build communities,” Mr Drage said. 

“It’s going to take a lot of guidance and communication for us to work out exactly what are the best tools and information to help us actually do what is required to create drought resilience.” 

Wimmera Development Association Executive Director Chris Sounness said regional and rural communities require progressive ideas to be sustainable. 

“The challenge rural communities face is people have lived the same experiences as each other and they’ve got high capability but they’ve only got one set of experiences in general. They keep coming up with the same solution, we look at history, that solution is getting people to the same spot,” Mr Sounness said. 

“How do we actually drive diversity in the thinking where a lot the communities are very strong internally? But it’s really hard for diversity to enter into that discussion because of that internal community strength.

“This program has the capacity to enable people to come forward and make the most the opportunity without dictating to them and telling them this is what you need to do to get this point.

“Every community is going to be different with every farm. Every landscape is different. So there’s a diversity in the country and there’s different experiences that we’re trying to tap into so we can understand what’s needed without excluding and without dictating.”

Natimuk Sheep Farmer Brian Klouss said he believes part of the solution is to simplify the grant application process, in turn pushing more ideas forward. 

“It needs to be a simple thing to apply for a grant. A lot of these grants will be applied for, especially at a community level by a volunteer. They don’t want to be sitting there for hours on end, making 100 phone calls to someone in the government department to get something through.”

“You’ll have more people putting up ideas if it’s a relatively simple process. You’ll get more of the community involved and it will create a flow on effect.”

Public Meetings are being held throughout November in all states and territories, except the Australian Capital Territory. 

Submissions will be accepted until the end of 2019 and a draft for funding allocations will be finalised around February 2020. 

The FDF was part of the Federal Government’s commitment to the agricultural sector during their election campaigns this year. 

Focus is on seeking solutions from stakeholders which will help manage the drought in years to come, rather than managing current drought conditions or how to provide in-drought support.

Submissions close December 13.

Visit the future drought fund have your say webpage for conultations and dates, online submissions will be accepted through - https://haveyoursay.agriculture.gov.au/future-drought-fund.