9 October 2019

The announcement of a further 13 councils added to the list of those eligible for funding under the Federal Government’s Drought Communities Program helped to draw national attention to the plight of primary producers right here in the Singleton local government area, but unfortunately in the worst possible way.

As an area built on agriculture and primary industries, and with farmers doing it just as tough as their counterparts in other parts of Australia including neighbouring Muswellbrook, it beggars belief that the Federal Government could have overlooked us. Again.

Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon MP was quick to react after last month’s announcement, and I was happy to represent our farmers in media coverage that stretched across Australia.

But the most direct action I took was to write to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison to re-issue an invitation to visit our area. Because while rainfall figures may not be a convincing enough case that our people need support, then perhaps the sight of their brown pastures and their stories of hardship will tip the scales.

The Drought Communities Program is a wonderful initiative to support regional areas affected by drought. In my letter to Mr Morrison, I respectfully submitted it would be a warranted demonstration of support for Singleton to be recognised under the program to provide funding to improve the community’s resilience to drought into the future.

Further, Council has projects in planning that can be done to support drought-affected properties to develop and enhance drinking water assets, to build longer-term resilience and redundancy so that when the next dry spell comes, the impacts will not be so pronounced.

The prosperity reaped from the land in the Singleton local government area helped to build the nation of Australia, which is faithfully recorded in the stories of farmers stemming back to Benjamin Singleton himself. As we prepare to mark the bicentenary of European exploration and the subsequent development of agriculture in the reaches of the mid Hunter Valley, it is my hope the Federal Government will recognise the farmers in our area are equally deserving of government assistance during this time of significant hardship, and reconsider Singleton’s status under the Drought Communities Program.