SYDNEY, AAP – The NSW government will spend $64 million to help regional communities prepare for the next drought by improving climate data and helping farmers use agricultural technology.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders announced the budget funding in Wellington in the state’s central west on Thursday.
“It feels like just yesterday the entire state was in drought with towns running out of water, crops failing to reach harvest and farmers making heartbreaking decisions between feeding livestock or feeding their families,” Mr Barilaro said.
“The initiatives in this brand new strategy, like increasing on-farm ag tech and vastly improving weather and climate data, will build more resilient regional communities, increase investment in water security and enable farmers to make more informed business decisions.”
The bulk of the funding ($48m) will be spent on expanding the Farms to the Future program to speed up the adoption of ‘ag-tech’ enabled production methods.
The remaining money will be spent on investigating potential groundwater supplies in western NSW ($6m), delivering a pilot “Farm Business Resilience Planning” program ($6m) and upgrading the Enhanced Drought Information System ($4m) to provide farms with world-leading weather and climate data.
Mr Perrottet said the government would undertake large scale aerial surveys of western NSW to identify potential new water sources and underground storages to reduce pressure on other supplies during drought.
The government pledged to support farm businesses and other landholders to “diversify their income” through carbon farming and biodiversity offset programs.
The government will also streamline planning requirements, making it easier for primary producers to diversify into agritourism.
The Bureau of Meteorology this month noted that although steady recovery from the drought has occurred over parts of eastern Australia since La Nina started to develop in mid-2020, further periods of above average rainfall are still needed.
The NSW budget will be delivered on Tuesday.