Drought package praised



"THE drought has been biting areas all over Australia and we should just be very thankful it is not here."

This was the Member for Page, Ian Causley's, reaction to the Howard Government pledging an extra $350 million towards exceptional circumstances drought assistance.

Grafton is part of the two per cent of New South Wales unaffected by drought, but Mr Causley still applauded Prime Minister John Howard's announcement.

"What the Prime Minis- ter said was very important," Mr Causley said.

"But the most important, I think, is the fact that he wants to streamline the application process."

The government's streamlined assessment process allows exceptional circumstances declarations to be 'rolled over', meaning farmers are informed of decisions sooner and able to manage their farms accordingly.

Grafton Rural Lands Protection Board manager Neville Collins agreed, and was pleased that a 135-page document would not need to be prepared to receive exceptional cir- cumstance funding, as was once the case.

"It is a great amount of money and great that the applications can be moved through quickly," he said.

Mr Collins said local farmers should not be complacent, and warned if the region did not get its summer rainfall, it could be in drought. In November last year the exceptional circumstances label was taken off Grafton.

"The hot days we've been getting have been drying the ground out," said Mr Collins. "We've had a great start to spring, but without follow up rain, we're in a bit of trouble."

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