Desperate farmer denied bushfire relief

Desperate farmer denied bushfire relief

08 April 2010

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 Tony De Luca has been left disillusioned by the state government after his application for a $10,000 loan under the Agricultural Natural Disaster Assistance Scheme was rejected for the second time.

Four kilometres of fence was damaged on Mr De Lucaâs Tinderry property when bushfires ripped through the Michelago area on December 17 last year.

Mr De Luca said he has been forced to restrict 120 breeding ewes on his farm to two paddocks as a result. There are nine paddocks in total on his farm.

We urgently require financial assistance in order to purchase fencing material which is necessary to provide adequate grazing land for our stock,” Mr De Luca said.

Mr De Luca applied for assistance after Minister for Primary Industries and Emergency Services Steve Whan announced primary producers in the area affected by the fires could apply for a loan up to $130,000 at 2.56 per cent interest per annum.

At the time Mr De Luca was working as an electrician in Canberra and was told he earned too much off farm income to be eligible for the loan.

“It was fair enough. I had quite a good job and made too much money to be eligible,” he said.

About one month later Mr De Luca was forced to take leave without pay to be a full time carer for his terminally ill wife.

He was told he did not make enough money to be able to afford the repayments on the loan.

We still have stock. There are sheep on the property that have to be fed, Mr De Luca said.

We understand that we do not fit into any categories for assistance but our need is desperate and we would appreciate any financial help [NSW Rural Assistance] can give us.”

The Natural Disaster Assistance was available to primary producers and small business operators in NSW who source their main income from their farm.

Mr De Luca said he makes about $5,000 to $6,000 per year from his stock.

I get $400 from Centrelink per fortnight to take care of my wife. The money I make from my stock is probably the main source of income for myself at the moment,he said.

Mr De Luca knows of other people in the area who had their livelihoods affected by the fires and have applied for loans. He said none of those people have received a cent from the government through the program.

Mr Whan said he was looking in to Mr De Lucaâs situation.

Tony De Luca has been in contact with my office and the issue is being followed up by Industry and Investment NSW, with a Drought Support Worker soon to meet with him to see what assistance is available to him, Mr Whan said.

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