Victoria Premier Ted Baillieu
Victoria Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh
More Support For Flood-Affected Victorian Communities And Families
Victor P Taffa
The Coalition Government has announced another substantial package of measures to help Victorian communities and families recovering from months of devastating floods.
Visiting the Kerang District with Prince William today, Premier Ted Baillieu and Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said the Coalition was delivering on its pledge to give flood-affected communities and families the support they needed.
“We are standing by these communities and families so they get the help they need to get back on their feet.” Premier Baillieu said.
“Victorians are resilient and recovering strongly from these calamitous floods and this package of targeted government support measures will further aid their recovery.”
“These further measures to help Victorian communities recover are in addition to previously-announced assistance for local government and individuals.” Premier Baillieu said.
The $11.956 Million Package of targeted flood support measures includes:
- A $6.15 Million employment program to fund the repair and protection of natural assets and other infrastructure damaged by the floods;
- $3.4 Million to extend the work of rural financial counsellors;
- A $1,500 bonus per apprentice for rural businesses in flood-affected regions for each apprentice they retain (total funding $1.076 Million);
- $790,000 for additional health and well-being services through the Sustainable Farm Families program;
- $540,000 for nine Rural Coordination Officers to assist the worst-affected rural councils responds to and coordinates response efforts.
Mr. Walsh said the package was based on discussions between the Coalition Government and food and fibre producers throughout Victoria as well as shires under pressure from the aftermath of the floods.
“This package continues the support already provided by the Coalition Government to communities and families that have been hit hard over recent months. We are continuing to support towns and families who will need ongoing support from both State and Federal Governments for some time to come.” Mr. Walsh said.
Further Coalition Government measures to help flood-affected Victorian communities and families
Flood Employment Program ($6.15 Million)
The Flood Employment Program will fund food and fibre producers and other rural workers to repair and protect natural assets and infrastructure damaged by this summer’s floods.
The Program will be delivered by Victoria’s Catchment Management Authorities in partnership with the Department of Sustainability and Environment and Parks Victoria.
Under the Program, skilled primary producers and other workers would be paid to repair and protect rivers, streams and wetlands, clean up, repair and rebuild fences, remove rubbish and debris and control weeds and pests.
The Program will be modelled on the CMA-operated Drought Employment Program, which successfully employed 1135 people on projects around rivers such as fencing and weed and pest control between 2006 and 2009.
The Program will enable important and essential skills to be retained within rural communities and provide an income stream to farmers and other rural workers until such time as the flood recovery process enables them to return to full-time on-farm employment.
It will also play a vital role in protecting the State’s waterways by rebuilding fencing along streams that were damaged by the floods.
Extending the work of Rural Financial Counsellors ($3.4 Million)
The Coalition is making a pre-budget announcement prior to the expiration of funding for Rural Financial Counsellor positions on June 30 to provide certainty for rural communities and counsellors.
Today’s announcement will ensure Victoria’s share of the rural financial counsellor network will be fully funded for another two years beyond June 2011.
The Coalition Government calls on the Commonwealth to match the Coalition Government’s commitment to the service by agreeing to fund the Commonwealth’s share of the service for a further two years.
The devastating summer floods have caused significant financial challenges for many food and fibre producers across Victoria. The funding will ensure the great work of 35 rural financial counsellors and five senior co-ordinators can continue.
Rural financial counsellors operate in many Victorian regions which have either been flood-affected or hit by heavy rain including Swan Hill, Horsham, Kerang, Pyramid Hill and Mildura.
These counsellors provide producers and small rural businesses experiencing financial hardship with free and impartial financial assistance by outlining options and providing support and referral services.
The previous Labor Government left financial counsellors and the communities they serve in limbo by refusing to roll over funding each year for this vital service until the very last minute.
Flood Apprenticeship Retention Bonus Scheme ($1.076 Million)
The Flood Apprenticeship Retention Bonus Scheme will provide rural businesses in flood-affected regions with a $1,500 bonus for each apprentice they retain.
The Scheme is aimed at businesses located in designated flood-affected regions that derive most of their income from primary production or from servicing primary producers.
Eligible businesses will be able to apply to receive a grant of $1,500 for each apprentice they retained continuously from January 1 2011 to December 30 2011.
Apprenticeships play a vital role in sustaining rural communities through providing employment and training to young people who could otherwise be lost to those communities.
The Coalition Government understands that the ongoing impacts of the floods means many rural businesses are under substantial financial pressure which in some cases will make it difficult to hold on to apprentices.
It is therefore crucial to support rural businesses and encourage them to retain their apprentices by providing a cash bonus that recognises the impact of the floods on scores of businesses in flood-affected areas.
The Flood Apprentice Retention Bonus scheme is being administered by DPI. Rural businesses interested in applying for the bonus should contact DPI on 136 186.
Sustainable Farm Families Program ($790,000)
This funding provides further support for the Sustainable Farm Families Program, which supports the physical and mental health and well-being of farmers and their families, including health assessments and workshops on issues including stress, physical and mental health issues, covering physical activity, nutrition, anxiety and depression and farm safety.
Rural Co-ordination Officers ($540,000)
The Coalition Government has allocated $540,000 to enable shires which have been worst-affected by the floods to employ a dedicated Rural Co-ordination Officer.
The sole focus of these Officers will be to respond to and co-ordinate response efforts for rural and farm issues in the wake of Victoria’s unprecedented floods. The floods have had a devastating impact on a number of small rural shires that were already facing significant challenges in maintaining their infrastructure and providing services within the constraints of their budgets.
The Rural Co-ordination Officers will provide much-needed assistance to the worst-affected councils and will specifically address the extra demands arising from the impact of the floods in relation to rural and farm issues.
Their roles will include co-ordinating volunteers for farm help, other farm-specific issues such as rubbish collection and farm access and liaising with government agencies to link outreach services for food and fibre producers and small rural businesses.
The Coalition’s funding for Rural Co-ordination Officers is additional to its commitment to fund 13 Flood Recovery Officers across 16 councils in need of help at a cost of $1.26 Million.
A council may receive funding to employ their own Rural Co-ordinator Officer or officers may be shared between more than one council.
The councils eligible to apply for funding to employ their own officer or to share an officer are the:
- Northern Grampians,
- Central Goldfields,
- Yarriambiack Shires, together with:
- Horsham Rural City,
- Swan Hill Rural City,
- Mildura Rural City Councils.
The Coalition Government will continue to expand its flood recovery program as well as engage the Commonwealth to ensure it plays its part in helping rural communities deal with the ongoing impacts of the floods. This Program is being administered by DPI.