PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has rejected an application from flood-affected farmers at Joel Joel, north of Stawell, for assistance grants worth up to $25,000.
The farmers including landholders with damage bills of more than $100,000 were devastated by the news.
A deluge in December 2011 destroyed livestock worth $264,000 and damaged farm fencing to the value of $2.8 million.
The flood was declared eligible for natural disaster relief in January, but just seven farmers received about $1000 each as part of Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.
After five months of community lobbying, the State Government approved an application for the Category C $25,000 grants, subject to approval by the Prime Minister.
Northern Grampians Shire Council representatives, flood-affected farmers and federal Member for Mallee John Forrest believe the decision is unfair.
Northern Grampians Mayor Dorothy Patton said she was disturbed by the Federal Government’s response.
“Our flood recovery team assured farmers they would receive assistance, so it’s disappointing it has been denied,” she said.
“Anyone who went to the Joel Joel area would have seen the level of devastation these farmers endured.
“The decision is completely unfair.”
Cr Patton said the flow-on effects of farmers struggling to pay their bills would affect the community.
She said Northern Grampians Shire Council would decide its next move at a meeting tomorrow.
There will be a community meeting tonight for affected farmers.
The Prime Minister said in a response to the State Government, the application did not satisfy the thresholds for the activation of Category C assistance.
Council municipal recovery manager Greg Little, who has worked closely with flood-affected farmers, was devastated by the grants’ rejection.
“It’s people’s livelihoods politicians are mucking around with – it’s not good enough,” he said.
Mr Little said he was unimpressed with the Federal Government’s reasoning behind the decision.
“The lack of transparency towards why the farmers were knocked back is not acceptable,” he said.
“I’m completely dismayed by the whole situation.”
Mr Forrest said he was disappointed with the decision.
“This government is too tied up in its new-found fiscal responsibility,” he said. “And it’s making small businesses and farmers pay for it.”
State Government Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan said he was concerned the Federal Government was inconsistent with which flood-affected communities received assistance.
The Mail-Times asked the Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and the Prime Minister to provide more information about the decision, but they did not respond before deadline.
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