BLAND Shire’s battle against the crippling drought has received a major boost with Riverina MP and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack announcing Council will receive $1 million to support the community’s economy during these tough times.

The Federal Government at its historic National Drought Summit on Friday announced another 21 Councils would be added to the Drought Communities Programme, with each to receive $1 million for local community infrastructure and other drought relief projects.

“The Liberal and Nationals’ Government knows that it’s not only our farmers who struggle when times are tough in regional Australia,” Mr McCormack said.

“We know small businesses in our communities also acutely feel the effects of this insidious drought.

“It may be the local agriculture supplier right through to the local barber or pub – when our primary producers are suffering, the whole local community is affected.

“This $1 million boost to local government areas struggling through the drought will help stimulate the economy in areas which need it the most.

“The Federal Government is committed to supporting our regional communities while the drought continues and will continue to help local communities get back on their feet when the drought breaks.”

Bland Mayor, Councillor Brian Monaghan, welcomed Council being added to the programme.

“It’s terrific news, terrific for our shire, and we are very grateful to Michael McCormack for making representations to the Prime Minister and getting the grant up for us,” Councillor Monaghan said.

“It’s coming at a time when it is much needed in our shire.”

Mr McCormack said the grants enabled councils to target projects to bolster the local economy through initiatives such as building new infrastructure or upgrading existing facilities which in turn would help create more local jobs.

In a social media post to Council General  Manager Ray Smith on Friday after the summit, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised the Government would “stand with you”.

The Government  also announced on Friday the $5 billion Future Drought Fund, which comes on top of  $1.8 billion already committed to drought assistance measures, including extending the Farm Household Allowance and providing up to $72 million from the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund for water infrastructure in drought affected areas.

Since 2015−16 the Australian Government has funded 147 projects in 23 drought-declared local government areas under the Drought Communities Programme, which is overseen by Senator Bridget McKenzie, the Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation.

A total of 81 local councils around Australia have been notified they are eligible to apply for funding under the extended programme.

Minister McKenzie will be reviewing the list before the end of the year.

Shane Manning