Australia plans A$3.9 billion drought future-proofing fund
The Australian government proposed on Friday setting up a A$3.9 billion ($2.8 billion) fund for water infrastructure and drought related projects to buffer farming communities from future droughts, as parts of the country endure extreme dry conditions.
“This is about putting money away for a non-rainy day in the future,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a drought summit in Canberra.
“And there is no time to waste.”
Recent rains in Australia have done little to relieve the drought gripping the country’s east, which has turned pastures into dust bowls, forced graziers to buy expensive grain to keep their herds alive, and led farmers to slaughter sheep and cattle.
Morrison said communities would be able to draw down A$100 million a year from the fund’s earnings to invest in projects. The fund is expected to grow to A$5 billion.
Canberra has already promised more than A$1.8 billion in relief for drought-afflicted farmers, including tax breaks, low-interest loans and mental health assistance. The state of New South Wales has provided more than A$1 billion in aid.
“The drought, which for some Australians I’ve visited is easily the worst for them in living memory, and it’s a long way from breaking,” Morrison told the summit.
The summit brought together government officials, farmers, weather experts, lenders, charities and other experts to discuss how to coordinate efforts to deal with drought relief, recovery and long term resilience.