Labor has called for an extension to special disaster loans and application assistance for fire-affected farmers, after the Berejiklian Liberals and Nationals revealed only 11 farmers across NSW have applied for a special disaster loan.
Speaking before a Budget Estimates hearing today, Nationals Minister Adam Marshall estimated that 10,000 NSW farmers have had their properties, crops and livestock damaged by fires, but confirmed that only 11 farmers have applied.
Special Disaster Loans are concessional loans of up to $500,000 available to fire-affected farmers, small business and local government areas.
Applications for the loans close in August this year after being open for only six and a half months.
Labor Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Jenny Aitchison said: “I’ve spoken to farmers across the state and they are overwhelmed by the damage to their animals, homes and farms that have been established over generations. They need more time to get themselves and their families together.
“Anyone who thinks that six months is enough time to sort through the devastation of fires and fill in a mountain of paperwork is kidding themselves. The fact that only 11 farmers have applied for these loans is proof of that. These farmers have been in drought for some three years before the fires, they just don’t have the resources to do paperwork when they are trying to find or replace stock that have gone missing due to lost fences, dealing with an explosion of weeds and pests, and replacing vital plant and equipment.
“The Liberals and Nationals need to extend the deadline, and they need to make sure that our farmers have the support they need to complete and submit their paperwork.”
Of applicants for the Special Disaster Loans scheme:
143 were small businesses
11 were primary producers
7 were not for profit organisations /churches
Despite only a short window to apply being given to farmers, applications for loans in Nationals Minister Adam Marshall’s electorate to flood affected businesses will have been available for 18 months when they close later in March.
Labor Shadow Minister for Finance and Small Business Daniel Mookhey, said: “It is unfair that flood victims get three times longer than victims of the worst bushfires in living memory, just because they are Adam Marshall’s neighbours. There should only be one set of rules here, so everybody gets a fair hearing.”