REGION - Member for Western Victoria, David O'Brien, has called for an investigation into a postcode anomaly that has prevented Greens Creek farmers from accessing recently approved National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.
Mr O'Brien raised the matter in Parliament last week and has asked that the matter be reviewed.
He has called on Deputy Premier, Peter Ryan for assistance after the postcode-based allocation had left farmers out of the scheme.
"Greens Creek, a farming district in the Upper Wimmera Catchment was highly impacted by the storm event. Northern Grampians Shire Council's records indicate 14 individual farm enterprises in Greens Creek that were significantly affected," said Mr O'Brien.
"The council have a concern for Greens Creek that a conflict may exist in the way the district postcode is recognised. This may have left several flood impacted primary producers outside of the eligible boundary."
Mr O'Brien thanked the Northern Grampians Shire Council recovery manager, Greg Little, for raising the matter.
"With the impact of the flood damage and cost of the repair needing to be evidenced as part of the eligibility for a grant contribution, making this common sense adjustment would not create scope for a field of illicit claims, but it would hopefully remove any uncertainty," Mr O'Brien said.
The postcode anomaly has been holding farmers in the Green Creek area back from gaining access to the vital flood recovery funding.
Northern Grampians Shire Council has been advised that the blunder has actually placed Greens Creek in a position of being ineligible for flood relief through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements grants program.
Municipal Recovery Manager for the shire, Greg Little, said there were 14 farming properties in Greens Greek that were significantly affected by flood on December 18, 2011, but there is no way for them to lodge a claim for funding.
As a result, council has moved to lobby on behalf of the farmers for the anomaly to be removed.
Council has agreed to formally raise the anomaly of Greens Creek primary producers being excluded from the NDRRA grant availability with the Deputy Premier, the Attorney General and local elected members of parliament, as being against the overall intention of the NDRRA grants and prejudicial to the flood affected farmers in this district.
Mr Little said it was important Greens Creek farmers were recognised as being eligible for the grants.
He said the Deputy Premier, Peter Ryan and Australian Government Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, had delivered some good news for farmers in the upper Wimmera catchment area in July, when they announced that flood grants would be available to this area. Council had been advocating strongly for NDRRA grants for clean-up and restoration of flood damage from the floods and storm on December 18, 2011.
Mr Little said changes had been made to the grants program which could be seen as disappointing, but at least it is giving primary producers an opportunity to access some funding.
He said the push now would be to ensure Greens Creek farmers were included in that category.
"A reduction in the amount from $25,000 to $10,000, limiting the availability of the grants only to primary producers in designated postcode areas and not making them available to affected business and community organisations was a marked difference in these grants from earlier flood grants," Mr Little said.
"While these changes are disappointing and might be considered as providing nominal assistance rather than recognising the true impact of the natural disaster on our community, after 18 months of pressure from council, local elected members of parliament, and effected community representatives, the outcome is still very welcome to our primary producers in meeting some of the out of pocket costs borne by people impacted by the December 2011 natural disaster.
"Council's flood team have written directly to each of the property owners in our database that had reported flood damage to advise them of the $10000 grant availability, provide them with the application form and also offer assistance to make the application for the grant.
As noted, the eligibility for the grants in this instance is based on postcode and not the whole shire. An anomaly has presented in that Greens Creek has had a postcode change to be in a mail delivery route with Marnoo, rather than Joel Joel and Concongella as it was previously. This means that this area postcode 3387 is not eligible under the Category C grants."
Mr Little said the flood recovery team was already aware of one farming family who have had their application rejected because of the postcode issue, describing it as 'another kick in the guts.
Other farmers have delayed making application for these much needed funds while they wait for the government to review the postcode decision.
Mr Little said it was estimated the cost of the total flood recovery effort will be in the vicinity of $30 million. It is anticipated the flood recovery works will be fully completed by the end of the contract period in 2014.