The NSW Nationals congratulates the grassroots members across the State who are working hard to help their communities through the drought.

With 100 per cent of the State now gripped by drought, communities are rallying together while the Nationals in Government open the coffers, with more than $1.3 billion in assistance packages announced by the NSW Nationals alone since June.

Tamworth branch member Russell Webb helped organise the recent “Navigating the Drought” forums, which brought together farmers and communities with Government agencies and charities to help them get face-to-face help accessing the assistance on offer. Events were held in Attunga, Narrabri, Moree, Inverell and Glen Innes, with hundreds of people getting a chance to meet with decision-makers.

“It’s been fantastic, I’m really glad the farmers and small business people came out to get advice and that the agencies took their time to come out to the regions,” Mr Webb said. “I think there’s a positive momentum now, people have realised how severe and intense this drought — we’re looking down the barrel of a tough spring — there’s a lot of sad stories and even the prepared people are starting to run out of that preparedness. There’s so many people trying to do so much, I’m just glad to be able to help.”

In Lismore, NSW Nationals Candidate Austin Curtin helped organise 40 bales of hay for delivery to Tenterfield, building upon a grassroots campaign to supply feed to struggling farmers, with another 40 planned to go next week.

Meanwhile, Nationals members in the Newcastle area were busily raising funds to support the drought relief efforts on the ground. The Medowie “Bale Out The Drought” campaign saw $70,000 raised from a town of 9000 people, a fantastic effort that Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest Branch Chairman Ben Niland called “incredibly generous”.

These are just a few examples of the terrific work grassroots members of the National Party are doing to help their fellow Australians.

Tamworth Branch Chairman Ian Coxhead, who lives in one of the worst-affected parts of the State, said supporting those in need was what being a National was all about.

“Full credit to all those Nationals who are out there putting these things together,” Mr Coxhead said. “Some people might listen to the Shooters and Fishers who say ‘what good are the Nats’, well just have a look at what we’re doing collectively, we’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder with people and where are the Shooters, where’s Labor? We’ve got the Nationals in Government putting their should to the wheel, we’ve got local nationals doing their part; this will be a long, hard road to recovery but the Nationals will be there delivering the help where it’s needed. Without the Nationals in Government, we wouldn’t be getting the help we’re getting now.”

For more information on the Emergency Drought Relief Package visit www.droughthub.nsw.gov.au

Information on the Federal Government’s drought assistance measures can be found at www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought/assistance

If you are worried about anyone, farmer or otherwise, who is doing it tough, please encourage them to seek help. Rural financial counsellors provide referrals to counsellors and support to access programs and there are also a number of phone and web-based support services of particular help to farmers. They allow access to expertise without the need to travel and are fully confidential. The following numbers can be called free of charge for assistance 24 hours, 7 days a week:

• Lifeline 131 114
• Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
• MensLine Australia 1300 789 978
• Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467