Drought Coordinator-General Shane Stone commits to helping people survive drought during visit to Moree

Drought Coordinator-General Shane Stone has committed to helping communities survive the drought, during a visit to Moree on Tuesday.

Mr Stone is currently travelling through drought-affected areas of the country with the National Drought and Flood Agency team to see and hear first-hand local impacts.

He spent Monday afternoon in Goondiwindi before travelling to Moree on Tuesday where he met with a number of industry representatives in two separate meetings.

Moree deputy mayor Greg Smith chaired a meeting at council chambers with about 40 community representatives in the morning, before Irritek's Helen Spain led a smaller, more focused meeting with about 10 locals from various agricultural and business backgrounds.

During his visit, Mr Stone was keen to get an understanding of what response measures are working well and those that need improvement, hear about innovative practices that are being used, and to hear local ideas for longer-term projects to help manage the impacts of future droughts when they occur.


"My role is to turn up and listen to what people have to say," Mr Stone said on Tuesday.

"Part of our strategy is to come and meet with locals, not to participate in a gab-fest but rather to ask, 'what is it that we can do that can make a difference in your lives?

"So we have an expectation that whatever we implement will be locally-designed and locally-implemented so that they own the measures that we bring back from the federal government.

"I want to reassure people that the Prime Minister is absolutely committed to doing what we need to do to help people through this drought. His performance in the flood zone was outstanding and no-one should have any doubt about his commitment."

Some of the ideas raised during the Moree meeting included cutting the payroll tax for businesses in drought-affected communities and providing incentives for skilled people to come and stay in these communities, while issues included the fact that people working off-farm can't access any assistance, and the difficulty of applying for loans and grants.

Most people are in favour of tax relief as a long-term solution, to help people get back on their feet once the drought does break, however Mr Stone was reluctant about that solution.

"I'm more for grants than tax relief, because if you start giving tax relief everyone will want it," he said.

"Grants are cleaner. You make the grant and it's done. I've also got an aversion to loans. I think you're just burdening people."

He was also brutally honest about his role and what that means he can and can't do.

"I'm not here trying to win a vote or win a favour from you," he said in the meeting.

"I'm here to do a job. The information I take back to the Prime Minister will be frank and fearless. I'm determined to try and deliver.

"Some things I'll be able to do for you and some things I won't be able to do. We're trying to be as flexible as we can."

And while the drought's impacts are plenty, as Mr Stone has heard during his visits to drought-affected communities, he said it all boils down to simply "surviving".

"No-one should underestimate how diabolical the situation is," he said.

"Yesterday Stanthorpe ran out of water and are now having to truck water to survive.

"These are terribly serious things that are happening in our rural community and no-one should underestimate the impact this is having on these communities, including families.

"They are looking for some form of assistance, whether it be by grants or loans so they can just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

"Most of them have run out of money. Debt is accumulating everywhere in these communities.

"There is a certain sameness, whether we're in Boulia or Blackhall or Longreach or here. This drought is biting and it's biting deep. And I just hope the rest of Australia understands the unfolding devastation out in these communities.

"But if we work together and we keep it going together, we'll get there."