Thanks for Nothing

The NSW Budget was handed down yesterday amid the usual feather-fluffing and chest beating, but what did it actually deliver to farmers entering their fourth year of no income?

According to Minister for Primary Industries, Lands and Water Niall Blair, $162 million will be invested to deliver quality services to the State’s farmers, landholders and communities through the mythical Local Land Services. Apparently they help communities respond to emergencies like flood, fire and drought. I guess they’re out there somewhere, doing something…

The budget supposedly also provides $63 million in drought assistance funding under the five year NSW Drought Strategy but this includes $50 million for the Farm Innovation Fund. Fantastic initiative for when seasons improve that also increases the value of the farm (a bonus if you want to sell) but it also increases debt levels and there is no point in having a big hay shed or silo if there is nothing to store in it.

w1200_h678_fmax (2)Thirteen of the 63 million is then presumably left to teach us how to be resilient and better prepared; something I find interesting. How does a ‘fly-by-nighter’ teach resilience to a farmer who survived the millennium drought and is now into their fourth year of no income in this drought? All nice warm, fuzzy-feeling and apparently future-proofing stuff, but what’s it providing to help those in dire straits right now?

The NSW Government no longer sees the need for a Ministerial portfolio dedicated to Western NSW which is reflected in the budget overview that indicates Western NSW covers the areas of Wagga Wagga, Parkes, Forbes, Dubbo and Tamworth. Cooee to those at Wanaaring, Wilcannia and Pooncarie; CWA of NSW still knows you’re out there.

On the Budget website there is a menu item called Mapping the Budget which (if your internet connection is good enough and the site is ‘responding’) has colourful little icons representing different projects and a map of NSW to show where those projects are to occur. In what I would call Western NSW there are about 10 of 697 identified projects.

Two of these projects are in Walgett with one being an upgrade to the Walgett Community College High School at an estimated total cost of $7,641,000 of which $4,769,000 is committed for this financial year. Fixing the building; great idea! Will it fix the problems within the school? I think not.

Also included in this big spend budget is more than $64 million in 2015-16 to build or refurbish police stations in various areas of the state, including Walgett. Digging a little deeper I found that the estimated cost for the Walgett Police Station is $16,069,000 and this year’s commitment is $3,474,000. When I was in Walgett on Saturday the new building appeared to be almost complete. I guess ‘build’ is just summarizing the detail; media commentators might ask if the money already spent is included in this budget?

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Tucked away in a press release from the Parliamentary Secretary for Western NSW I found that $2.2 million is to be spent on the Walgett water supply bore – fantastic if anyone is left to use it. Small businesses in drought affected communities are also buckling under the pressure but I could find nothing for them in the press releases from the Minister for Small Business, except a plethora of references to ‘regional’ NSW. Nothing about rural or remote; hi to all in Tilpa, Tibooburra and Tabbita, will do our best to let ‘them’ know there are still people inhabiting western New South Wales.

I haven’t mentioned Lightning Ridge, but then neither does the budget.

I recently heard Bob Katter talk about “the tyranny of the majority”, so I Googled …according to Wikipedia and many other sites it “involves the scenario in which decisions made by a majority place its interests above those of an individual or minority group …”

Just sayin’ …

 

Fillies and Fireworks

So what did you do for the long weekend? A few runs down the mountain to celebrate the start of the ski season or a trip to Cairns to warm your bones; a weekend away with the girls/boys or some ten-pin and a movie with the family?

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Mallawa

In the north-west we amuse ourselves on Saturday with a flutter on the horses at the Mallawa Picnic Races, which this year boasted a six race program with as many as five horses in each race! The excellent turnout of horseflesh on the track was reflected in the number of punters off the track, with cars parked six deep to the entry gate and race-goers (rather eagerly) partaking of refreshments and/or parleying with their preferred bookie. Fashions in the field are always varied and usually range from warm and modest with sensible shoes; mostly worn by seasoned black soil plains dwellers to chilly and revealing with skyscraper like stilettos; worn by those not accustomed to loose dirt and large cracks (in the ground!).

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Mallawa 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This most social occasion is, for us, akin to the famous Birdsville Races in south-west Queensland … without the pub … or the town for that matter; being situated in a paddock on the road from Moree to … eventually … Rowena! There are, however, all the usual amenities to make such an occasion civilised, including bar and band for after race-day activities as well as the added bonus of wide-open spaces and an unimpeded view of a glorious sunset for the entertainment of the designated drivers; sometimes the only ones still capable of appreciating it.

So that’s Saturday taken care of.

For Sunday’s recovery we have a more relaxed and casual event around the bonfires at the Rowena Cracker Night. This event has been running for close to 20 years and started with 30 odd Rowena Primary School students, sitting cross-legged on a blue tarp watching fireworks being lit by a couple of dads with safety goggles and long matches. Those of us not involved in the lighting of Tom Thumbs, Sparkling Fountains and Giant Sky Rockets kept a watchful eye on inquisitive, fire loving small people and trying not to laugh out loud (LOL) at the ducking, weaving and near-miss eyebrow-singeing antics of the would-be pyrotechnics.

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So much fun was had by all it became an annual event that has grown to now attract over 1,000 visitors and includes bonfires, dinner, music and professional pyrotechnic companies who provide us with fantastic displays in our open, velvety and completely un-lit skies.

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MAGIC!!

The funds raised from this event support the children of our district and Rowena CWA members are pleased to do our bit in providing extra hands to (wo)man the gate, serve a steak or sausage sandwich and contribute to the delicious array of tea and coffee accompaniments.

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Tanya with Amanda, Cindy, Joc and Emma

Rural Women = Future Leaders

On behalf of all the members of CWA of NSW I would like to congratulate Cindy Cassidy from Ariah Park who was announced the winner of this year’s NSW Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women’s Award, on Tuesday night.

The award seeks to identify and support women with commitment and leadership potential to make a greater contribution to primary industries and their rural communities. Cindy believes in the value of Research and Development and will use the award to maximise the quality and effectiveness of agricultural extension through a network of contacts, national and international, to improve the efficacy of locally delivered programs.

CWA NSW has always believed that empowering women builds capacity, strength and resilience which in turn benefits remote, rural and regional communities so we are therefore proud to be a sponsor of a program that supports female leaders in their endeavours to take us into new and innovative spaces.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Award Ceremony which was held at Parliament House, to celebrate the achievements of the three state finalists; Sophie Anderson from Byron Bay, Trudy McElroy from Deniliquin and of course Cindy. All three finalists were worthy contenders and deciding on a winner would have been difficult.

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Trudy McElroy, Cindy Cassidy, Tanya Cameron and Sophie Anderson

Kate Lorimer-Ward is the Director of Educational and Regional Services within the NSW Department of Primary Industries and did an admirable job as Master of Ceremonies, but in her other life Kate is a member of our Byng Emu Swamp Branch.

The dinner was attended by politicians, department staff, industry leaders, media, past recipients, sponsors and of course friends and families of the finalists; providing ample opportunities for the proverbial “networking”.

Congratulations to all the finalists, but special wishes to Cindy; we hope you enjoy the ride over the next twelve months.

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