East Gippsland Shire Council will use a multi-pronged approach to allocating $500,000 in drought support, for short and longer-term community benefit.
Council allocated $500,000 in its 2019/20 budget to be able to respond to drought affected communities without the constraints of external funding criteria, and has worked with stakeholders to develop how best to use the funding.
The funding will be spread across: individual support ($130,000), community support ($120,000), future focussed and strategic ($150,000), advocacy and awareness raising ($50,000) and contingency ($50,000).
Mayor Cr Natalie O’Connell said one of the support priorities would be targeted at individuals experiencing difficultly as a direct result of the drought, with a $130,000 allocation to volunteer and welfare agencies.
“We recognise volunteer and welfare agencies are better placed to provide direct assistance to individuals than Council. They already operate in this space, have appropriate systems and processes in place and are trusted by our communities,” Cr O’Connell said.
“This will allow these agencies to target those most in need. That could be through debit cards, shop local vouchers or direct support of goods or products.
“Volunteer organisations, groups and individuals who give up their time to fundraise, pack hampers, deliver fodder, drop in for a cuppa or be that friendly ear over the farm gate are the unsung heroes of this drought.
“To the many groups like Red Cross, Country Women’s Association, Lions, Rotary, Gippsland Farmer Relief, thank-you.”
Council also understands how local communities are being impacted and has allocated $120,000 for community events.
“Community events are a great opportunity to bring all facets of the community together and provide informal support,” Cr O’Connell said.
“The intent of this funding is for it to be delivered simply. Groups and individuals are tired of filling in forms and re-telling their story to get small amounts of money to undertake activities. We will make accessing this money simple.”
An allocation of $150,000 will support future focussed / strategic initiatives, identified in the Looking Ahead – Gippsland Drought Response Proposal 2019 developed in conjunction with Wellington Shire Council.
“Considerable talk throughout this drought has been around preparation for future droughts and making our farming communities more sustainable,” Cr O’Connell said.
“It has been recognised that not all farms are equally impacted by drought. The impact depends on many factors and understanding these factors is an important part of building the collective knowledge of the sector.”
Advocacy and awareness raising has been allocated $50,000.
“The Drought Reference Group expressed a need to raise the profile of the issues affecting East Gippsland farmers with the broader Victorian community and particularly the decision makers. The purpose of an advocacy campaign is to ensure that the story of the East Gippsland drought is accurately portrayed through the media,” Cr O’Connell said.
A $50,000 contingency will be maintained to respond to other issues or opportunities as they arise through Council, the Drought Reference Group or community directly.
Cr O’Connell said the funding did not address rate relief because Council has previously determined that this is a function of the State Government.
“Council has made the determination of funding based on considerable feedback from the East Gippsland Drought Reference Group, which includes farmer, health, environmental and employment representation, individual discussions in the community and discussions within Council,” Cr O’Connell said.