The New South Wales government has revealed in budget estimates this week that only $27 million of a promised $150 million package to support regional communities during the mouse plague had been spent.
- The NSW Government has faced criticism after only $5 million of mouse rebates were paid out to farmers.
- The rebate program has been criticised for being too complicated for farmers to access.
- Only $27 million of the $150 million mouse support packages has been spent.
Earlier this year the government committed $150 million across two separate packages to support farms, households and small businesses spending thousands of dollars on baits and traps to fight the mouse plague.
In May the government announced households were eligible for a $500 rebate and small businesses a $1000 refund to help cover the cost of baits as part of a $50 million package.
In June the government announced a further $100 million package for farmers to claim a 50 percent rebate — up to $10,000 — to cover the cost of baits with $5 million from the package being used to “shore up” supplies of mouse poison.
On Monday at budget estimates Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall revealed only $5 million of the $95 million available to farmers had been spent.
Mr Marshall said around 800 farmers had applied for the scheme and almost all had been processed.
Comparatively the household and small business scheme run through Service NSW has processed more than 50,000 claims.
But it was also revealed in budget estimates that Service NSW received $5 million from the package in administration fees for rolling out the program.
NSW Farmers vice-president Xavier Martin said the scheme was made too hard to access for farmers who were still battling the mice plague in some areas.
“They [farmers] have been rather taken aback at more than a dozen different steps,” Mr Martin said.
“I’ve certainly had complaints from farmers that when they’ve looked at the complexities, they’ve had to get their accountants involved.”
Mr Martin said some farmers had still been baiting recently to protect an expected above average crop across most of the state.
The director-general of the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Scott Hansen, said the rebate scheme required a single application and the department was expecting a surge in applications in the following weeks with the baiting program winding up.
“If amendments need to be made to make it simpler, to make it faster, to make it more effective, than we’ll be recommending those to the Minister and Deputy Premier,” he said.
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