TUESDAY: The Morrison government is being forced to review all 123 councils eligible for drought relief after it admitted it used the wrong weather data to award a million dollars to a waterlogged Victorian shire.
The government admitted to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that the Department of Infrastructure had used the wrong weather data in awarding the grant and that would trigger a review of the entire process. More here
MONDAY: A south-west Victorian council whose shire is experiencing one of their best farming seasons in recent history, has questioned whether $1 million of drought-relief funding given to them by the federal government was meant for Moira Shire.
Moyne Shire was one of 13 councils across Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia to receive $1 million for projects.
But mayor Mick Wolfe said the council did not apply for, nor need, drought relief funding.
In Moira, however, farmers are in desperate need of help.
"It's very dry," Mayor Libro Mustica said.
"We saw lots of crops fail last year and lots of crops fail this year.
"It's pretty dry, if we don't get rain in a week or two, it'll be very dire and we will be in need of some kind of funding help for farmers.
"Please make it rain."
Council areas neighbouring Moira, including Edward River, Berrigan, Federation and Murray River municipalities have all been selected to receive funding under the Drought Community Program.
Nearby Strathbogie has also received the $1 million grant.
Moyne councillor and Woolsthorpe farmer Colin Ryan told The Standard he was in disbelief.
"It's certainly news to me that we're in drought when we've had one of the best seasons in years," he said.
"How are we in drought when we're sending hay up to our northern farmers who are living in dust bowls and can barely afford to feed their cattle or themselves?"
So far this year Moyne's Shire Mortlake has recorded two and a half times more rain than Moira's Yarrawonga, according to Bureau of Meteorology data.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Mortlake has received 503mm so far in 2019 while Yarrawonga just recorded just 204mm.
In 2018 the total rainfall recorded in Yarrawonga was 336.2mm.
The Drought Community Program funding was part of a $100 million drought package announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Minister for Drought David Littleproud and Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie - whose Wodonga office is about one hour's drive from the Moira shire border.
On Monday, Mr Littleproud, Mr McCormack and Ms McKenzie stood by the allocation, highlighting the process was based on Bureau of Meteorology data.
Mr Littleproud said the data showed 62 per cent of Moyne shire was in drought but requested a forensic audit of Bureau of Meteorology data after the funding was widely questioned.
Moyne councillor Jim Doukas said it was hard to believe they had received the drought relief funding.
"It's more than an embarrassment, it's bad management," he said.
Moyne's Cr Wolfe said they would wait for the results of the audit but councillors have suggested to The Standard the money should be given to another shire.
In a joint statement announcing the funding on Friday, Ms McKenzie said the "targeted relief followed careful assessment of the current challenges farmers were facing".
On Monday, Ms McKenzie's office would not be drawn on whether the Minister had seen the funding breakdown prior to the announcement or whether she queried the inclusion of Moyne.
A spokeswoman said the decision was made by the Department of Agriculture based off BOM data.
"These decisions shouldn't be political, but should be based off the best science available and made by the department," she said.
A spokeswoman for Mr McCormack said Moyne Shire Council was "definitely" rightfully selected.
Cr Mustica said if the government had actually meant to allocate drought funding to Moyne instead of a shire that was really struggling, it would be very disappointing.
"We wouldn't be happy about it," he said.
"If they don't need it, no doubt they should give it to shires that need it.
"Give it to the people who have the most need for it."
Cr Mustica said he and the council chief executive would meet shortly to discuss the funding issue, and he couldn't say yet whether they believed there had been a mix up between the two shires.
He said any drought relief funding would be gratefully received.
"It's got to come this way, struggling farmers are in desperate need of some kind of assistance," Cr Mustica said.
"[Funding] would make an enormous amount of difference... I don't know the requirements for this funding but any money coming into the community would help."