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Office of drought response delivering better support for regional NSW

14 November 2019

The new dedicated Office of Drought Response has been formed to better coordinate support delivered by all NSW Government agencies for farmers, communities, businesses and towns affected by drought.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro, Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey and Minister for Agriculture and Western NSW Adam Marshall announced the formation of the new Office today which will work to ensure water security, address the impact of drought on business and communities and provide ongoing support to farms.

“The Office will be staffed by 10 dedicated people and will continue to develop policy and strategy to address the impacts of this devastating drought,” Mr Barilaro said.

“The crippling effects of drought have reached beyond the farm gate and are impacting families, businesses and local economies right across regional NSW and the Office will ensure communities are aware of what support measures are available.

“The NSW Government has already provided $1.8 billion in emergency assistance to farmers and communities along with $1 billion for water security projects and the Office of Drought Response will coordinate the delivery of this assistance.

“Immediate support is vital but we are also developing long-term strategies to help communities and farmers through recovery when the drought finally breaks,” he said.

Minister Pavey said the relentless intensity of the drought warranted a dedicated office to co-ordinate a response coming into summer.

“We have seen the impact of this crippling drought move from the farm sector to the very social and economic fabric of regional communities,” Minister Pavey said.

“Government has recently added to our already extensive investment in rural water infrastructure, with new dams announced and numerous crucial projects fast-tracked.

“I welcome this latest action to provide easily-accessible, cohesive support for our farmers and regional communities as we approach the challenging summer ahead.”

Mr Marshall said as the State’s farmers battle the worst drought in living memory, the NSW Nationals’ top priority is to continue delivering the support they so desperately need.

“We know our farmers are doing it tough, and as a result so are regional and rural communities, which is why we’re doing everything we can to carry some of the burden,” Mr Marshall said.

“We will continue to listen and adjust our assistance measures accordingly.”

The Office of Drought Response will operate within the Department of Planning Industry and Environment, led by Coordinator-General Gary Barnes with the support of the Deputy Secretary, DPIE Water Jim Bentley. Dubbo-based Ken Harrison has been appointed as Director of Drought Response Operations.

Mr Barilaro said Regional Town Water Supply Coordinator James McTavish will continue working with communities and local councils to ensure regional towns do not run dry and ensure emerging local water issues are quickly identified and resolved.

“Since his appointment in January this year, James has been a credible and hardworking voice for our regional communities, listening to locals and delivering the infrastructure needed to provide an ongoing supply of drinking water,” Mr Barilaro said.

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