Lithgow City Council will make water available at half price to drought-affected farmers within the LGA, after passing a collection of measures to support farmers at the meeting on Monday, June 25.
Mayor Stephen Lesslie introduced the measures as a ‘matter arising’ from a lost motion by Cr Maree Statham, which recommended council provide discounted water to drought-affected farmers.
Cr Lesslie said the matter arising, which included recommendations beyond water discounts, had been drafted in consultation with the Hartley branch of NSW Farmers.
“I congratulate Rachel Nicoll and John Lowe for taking the initiative to come and talk to council, so we can try and get it [the drought response] so it’s just not off the cuff,” Cr Lesslie said.
The motion included several recommendations including that water from Lithgow’s Barton Street standpipe be made available to drought-affected farmers for half price, that council assist Local Land Services to process road grazing permits within 72 hours, that council lobby RMS for B-double trucks to access non-traditional truck routes to deliver fodder, and for council to promote a ‘buy a bale’ campaign.
Ms Nicoll and Mr Lowe had presented a report on possible council action on the drought, Cr Lesslie said.
“We asked Lithgow council staff to go through the document to ascertain just how we could help farmers to try and get a coordinated approach.”
Chair of the Hartley branch Rachel Nicoll confirmed the branch had sought a meeting with Cr Lesslie and council general manager Graeme Faulkner on the Thursday before Monday night’s meeting.
“We understood that there was a motion of the discussion on water rebates and we wanted to talk about how to best manage something like that for the area,” Ms Nicoll said.
She said she was impressed council was able to put together something from the branch’s proposal by Monday.
“I can’t thank council enough. The more we can work together and particularly be involved with other organisations like GPs and veterinarians, it just shows there’s that support there.”
Some of the branch’s suggestions were not included in Monday’s recommendation, such as council assisting farmers with writing grant applications and financial planning, a drought-focussed mental health initiative and that council apply for grants made available by the state government for dirt roads.
“We’re hoping we’ll be able to continue to work with council on these other opportunities. They might not be there [in the recommendation] as they take more planning and investigation on the council side.”
Ms Nicoll said that faster access to road-side grazing permits [which usually take 2-3 weeks to be granted] would provide livestock with a complementary source of feed.
The motion passed on June 25:
- Promote the buy a bail campaign via a link on the council’s website
- Initiate a program from July 1, 2018 whereby, subject to a registration process, drought-affected farmers within the Lithgow Local Government Area (LGA) are eligible for a free standpipe access card and access to the Barton St, Lithgow water standpipe with a 50 per cent reduction on the 2018/19 metered standpipe water usage charge.
- Note that the registration process proposed in No.2 above will require details of the location of the rural producer, details of the rural enterprise, where the water will be utilised, and details of how their rural enterprise composes their primary source of income.
- Note that parties afforded access to water through the program as outlined in No 2 and 3 above will be responsible for the cartage of the water.
- Note that the rate relief may be provided for drought affected farmers within the provisions of council’s adopted hardship policy.
- Provide the Local Land Services with direct Council contacts for Roadside Grazing permits and advise of its intention to provide expediated 72 hour turnaround on application on all applications between July 1 and December 31.
- Council make representation to the RMS to make B-Double loads permissable on non-traditional routes upon application by the permit holder.
- Note that a report will be prepared for the November meeting (or earlier should the LGA no longer be drought declared) to review the council’s drought assistance measures, provide details of the utilisation if the hardship and water measures by drought affected farmers, and include the financial implications of the reduced cost metered standpipe program.
Councillors voted unanimously to support the motion.
Cr Steve Ring said council had to be “cautious” in regards to water discounts.
“It’s not only farmers in rural areas who are having problems with water, it’s people in Capertee who rely on rain water. It’s a raft of people. It is a minefield and we need to be cautious.”
Cr Statham said that the motion was introduced as a matter arising was inappropriate as her initial motion was simply to do with water discounts.
“I think the other issues you have been speaking about have been excellent. I think you should have a matter of urgency for that because I think that deserves it.
“I’m glad you have now decided it’s urgent because at the last meeting we were talking about freight rebates and you were wondering about forming some committee,” she said.
Cr Lesslie said Ms Statham’s criticism was “unreasonable” as council had voted unanimously to support the freight rebate motion.