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Anderson announces declaration of drought exceptional circumstances in East Gippsland, Victoria

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Media Release

The Minister for Primary Industries & Energy and Deputy Leader of the National Party, John Anderson, today announced the Federal Government has approved the declaration of Drought Exceptional Circumstances (DEC) in East Gippsland, Victoria.

Mr Anderson said the DEC declaration was expected to provide an estimated $10 million in support to East Gippsland farmers who were experiencing one of the worst droughts on record.

The Minister said the decision to declare DEC in the Shires of Wellington and East Gippsland followed independent advice provided by the Rural Adjustment Scheme Advisory Council (RASAC).

There are an estimated 2800 farms in the declared area.

"To qualify for DEC a region must experience such extreme drought that would only occur once in every 20-25 years and last longer than 12 months. This is clearly the case in East Gippsland," Mr Anderson said.

Farmers in DEC areas are able to apply for a range of assistance measures. These are:

• interest subsidies of up to 100% under the exceptional circumstances provisions of the Rural Adjustment Scheme for carry-on finance, debt restructuring and productivity improvement;

• access to the Exceptional Circumstances Relief Payment (ECRP) for the period of declaration, as well as a 12-month recovery period. ECRP helps farm families meet day to day living expenses. It is equivalent to NewStart allowance and is subject to an income test;

• special access to a Health Care Card and Family Payments;

• special assessment provisions for AUSTUDY eligibility by the exclusion on-farm assets from the assets test.

Mr Anderson said it would take several days for the administrative arrangements to be finalised.

DEC certificates would be issued by the Rural Finance Corporation of Victoria on request to farmers in the DEC area. Certificates will need to be presented to Centrelink when farmers claim ECRP or special assessment for other Federal Assistance.

RAS interest subsidies will be administered by the RFC.

Minister for Primary Industries and Energy


DPIE98/30A 30th March, 1998

Media Contact: Robert Haynes 0262777520/0419493511

Parliament House. Canberra ACT 2600 Tel: (06) 277 7520 Fax: (06) 273 4120