Drought Minister David Littleproud has given struggling rangelands pastoralists his personal undertaking to open up $250 million in drought assistance funds currently barred from flowing into WA.
Speaking on his first visit to Kalgoorlie yesterday, Mr Littleproud promised local governments from the Nullarbor through to the Murchison would be able to access the multi-million tranche of funding made available to the east coast for drought assistance.
Two streams of Federal Government assistance, totalling more than $250 million, announced at the start of November are unavailable to West Australians because no council in the State is on the Commonwealth’s drought-affected areas list.
Concessional loans worth up to $2 million and $200 million under the Building Better Regions Fund announced at the same time are available for WA pastoralists.
We want money into people’s hands, and these council’s hands, to go and stimulate these local economies
Mr Littleproud said the Federal Government was working to unlock this funding for WA “within weeks”.
“We are reviewing criteria as we speak now and hope to have that finalised in the next couple of weeks,” he said.
“We want money into people’s hands, and these council’s hands, to go and stimulate these local economies.
“We will be notifying the councils they are eligible, they will have money to spend and we expect them to spend it. “We expect them to come back to us early in the new year with projects.
The minister spent yesterday in Meekatharra and Kalgoorlie fielding questions from pastoralists and concerned outback residents about the Federal Government’s drought assistance measures.
READ MORE: WA’s drought crisis
Federal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson said the trip had provided clarity for himself and for pastoralists as to what funding they could apply for.
“I think we can certainly give the pastoralists coming in this afternoon something to take home in terms of some really positive outcomes from the Commonwealth Government,” he said.
“Without support from the State Government for water subsidies, for freight subsides to get animals onto agistment, there could be some dire animal welfare outcomes.”
State Member for North West Central Vince Catania said the State Government now needed to step up to the plate.
“Our pastoralists need help to have transport subsidies, feed and water carted to places in the Southern Rangelands,” he said.
“The pastoralists are desperate and so are the cattle.”
The State has significantly boosted funding for feral animal control, but has so far resisted calls to fund hay and water carting.