A FEDERAL Government decision to exclude Moira Shire from the list of local government areas to receive $1 million in drought relief funding has been met with disbelief throughout the district.
Moira’s omission from the list has been made all the more painful given the reason stated; Moira has been calculated as having 16.9% of its population employed in the agriculture industry - 0.1% short of the 17% eligibility threshold.
Figures provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) were also used to determine which municipalities received funding, as was rainfall data provided by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).
Berrigan Shire and Federation Shire, which are adjacent to Moira, have both been slated to receive the funding.
To add insult to injury, Moyne Shire, located in Victoria’s south west, was awarded the funding, despite its mayor Mick Wolfe publicly stating his shire is not in drought. Mr Wolfe has stated that Moyne Shire will not accept the funding.
A spokesperson for Moira Shire told the Leader that Moira disagrees with the government’s calculations, and is lobbying them to make Moira a recipient of the $1 million grant.
Following the announcement last week, Moira shire CEO Mark Henderson questioned the figures, which were supplied by Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie.
“I checked our Remplan (economic consultant) figures and it’s saying our agriculture industry is 19.5%, so I think there is a bit of mismatch in the data,” he said.
“I’ve sent a note to Senator McKenzie’s office asking about that.”
Katunga dairy farmer Bridget Goulding told the Leader that if so many farmers had not left the region due to water shortages, Moira Shire would easily have met the threshold.
“I know of 117 dairy farmers within a 25 kilometre radius of Numurkah who have shut-up shop in the past couple of years, because of the water situation,” she said.
“If they hadn’t essentially been forced out, their numbers would have put us over the line.
“Our farmers are suffering just as much as those in neighbouring shires, as are the other agricultural businesses that depend on their trade. It’s completely unfair.”
Speaking on Sunrise yesterday morning, mayor Libro Mustica agreed with host Sonia Kruger that the situation is ridiculous, but said he wasn’t concerned.
“I think they need to review the stats, I mean, we qualify for over that 17%” he said.
“I’m not really concerned about it. We’ve got some good federal politicians who are on our side to make sure that we get that $1 million. I think it’s going to happen and that’s what I’m counting on.”
Cr Mustica said that if Moira Shire does receive the funding, it would allow the community to decide how it was spent, but also reflected on the fact that $1 million would not go far.
“This drought assistance is going to be required across the whole Moira Shire.
“Moira Shire is over 4,000 square kilometres, so $1 million is not going to go a long way, but it is certainly going to help some of these farmers and communities get back together again.”
The Leader did not receive comment from Nationals Member for Nicholls Damian Drum before its publication deadline.