Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon and Singleton mayor Sue Moore express disappointment over shire's continual snubbing of drought assistance

It's a slap in the face, says MP

HUNTER MP Joel Fitzgibbon believes the continued omission of Singleton from drought funding is a "slap in the face" to the area's farming community.

And, he has the full support of the shire's mayor Sue Moore, who this week extended another invitation to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to visit the region.

The Australian Government announced a new round of financial assistance, totalling $1 million, with 52 councils added to the list of those eligible for the Drought Communities Program (DCP).

While neighbouring Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter shires qualify, Singleton missed out again.

"It makes no sense," said Mr Fitzgibbon, the Shadow Minister for Agriculture.

"Singleton is the same country as Muswellbrook, with the same climate and the same drought.

"They are separated only by a line on the map.

"Yet, Muswellbrook was included in the Drought Communities Program last year, while Singleton was excluded in this week's latest extension."

Ironically, in September 2019, Moyne Shire in Victoria was granted $1 million under the DCP - but handed the money back because it claimed it was not in drought.

It is believed the reason for Singleton's exclusion lies in how the government assesses an LGA.

The process not only measures drought status and rainfall.

It also requires 17 per cent share of the workforce to be agricultural workers - a criteria which Singleton missed, with only an 11.1 per cent share.

"The Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the recent DCP round have all been in drought for a year, so they should have been included in last year's DCP announcements," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"Singleton should have been included at the same time as Muswellbrook.

"The drought response from this government has been ad hoc, which has left farming communities confused.

"I will continue to advocate for Singleton to be included in DCP funding."

Cr Moore said Singleton just wanted a "fair go".

"We acknowledge that other LGAs, including Muswellbrook and the Upper Hunter, are deserved of government help," she explained.

"But, Singleton farmers are suffering equally in what is the worst drought on record.

"I have previously written to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management to express my disappointment that Singleton continues to be overlooked for assistance.

"In light of Tuesday's announcement of 52 councils added to the list of eligible councils for the federal government's Drought Communities Program, I reiterate my invitation to Scott Morrison to come to Singleton to see the impacts of this drought for himself.

"He can also meet with the people this government has again failed to recognise."

Cr Moore said the Singleton LGA was a farming region predominantly covered with primary production farming land that had an output of $161-plus million annually and contributed 455 direct jobs.

"We fear that due to Singleton's extraordinary output in mining of $8.062 million annually, the Department of Agriculture has overlooked the impact the drought is having on the Singleton farming community," she added.

"Again, I appeal to the federal government to include the Singleton LGA as an eligible area under the Drought Community Program - and, for our farming community to be given the opportunity to submit funding applications for drought-related projects and initiatives to ensure the future of our agricultural industry."