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Drought assistance to continue for parts of Gippsland region.

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The Hon. Tony Burke MP Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Drought assistance to continue for parts of Gippsland region

1 October 2008 DAFF08/134B

The Federal Government has accepted independent advice to extend drought assistance for parts of the Central and East Gippsland region, after experts toured the region last week.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke said the advice followed a submission from the Victorian Government to the independent National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC).

The submission proposed revised boundaries for Exceptional Circumstances drought relief, which would allow assistance to continue for specific areas.

Previously, the NRAC had recommended drought assistance should not be extended for the entire Central and East Gippsland region as conditions overall had improved.

Assistance was due to cease yesterday.

However, drought assistance will now continue for farmers in a revised area of East Gippsland and Wellington Shires, excluding the Macalister Irrigation District and the La Trobe City Council.

The new Central and East Gippsland revised Exceptional Circumstances declared area will include the towns of Yarram, Heyfield, Maffra, Stratford, Bairnsdale, Paynesville, Lakes Entrance and Orbost.

The NRAC inspected the area and considered new rainfall data and agreed with the Victorian Government that this area had not continued to recover.

Based on the NRAC’s proposal, drought assistance for the revised area will now continue until 30 April 2009, to give the independent Council a better opportunity to assess conditions at an appropriate time in the agricultural production cycle.

Assistance still ceased yesterday for the Macalister Irrigation District and the La Trobe City Council areas.

Earlier this month, the Federal Government formally sought urgent advice from the NRAC on the possible extension of assistance, after the Victorian Government provided new information.

Exceptional Circumstances boundaries are based on data from state and territory governments, which is assessed by the NRAC.

“This will be a relief for farmers and their families in those parts of the Gippsland region which have not recovered as well from drought,” Mr Burke said.

“The NRAC Chair Keith Perrett had assured me they would assess any proposed boundary changes as a matter of urgency and they have acted quickly to give farmers certainty.”

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