The Australian government mistakenly awarded a million dollars of so-called “drought relief” to a waterlogged shire in south-western Victoria, after using the wrong weather data to determine which areas were most in need of assistance.
Moyne Shire, which encompasses Port Fairy on the state's western coast, enjoyed one of its best seasons in years in terms of rainfall, Fairfax reports, with certain parts of the region even experiencing flooding within the past couple of months. Which is probably why locals were so surprised to hear that the Morrison government had extended its drought relief package and included Moyne as one of the 13 government areas to be added to the project.
Moyne Shire Council met this morning to officially reject the funding, insisting that the area doesn’t need the money nearly as much as other parts of the country.
"We're not drought affected,” farmer and councillor Colin Ryan told the ABC. “We don't need the money for drought reasons and I believe it should be redirected to more deserving areas of Australia.”
Local farmer and councillor Jim Doukas further suggested that "I think they meant to give it to the Moira Shire,” located in the north of the state.
“When I heard about it I thought it was a joke, but I knew it was wrong,” he said, according to Fairfax. “They've stuffed up somewhere.”
The government is now being forced to review its entire drought relief process—which encompasses 123 councils in total—after admitting that the Department of Infrastructure used the wrong weather data in awarding the grant. Drought Minister David Littleproud, for one, blamed the Bureau of Meteorology [BoM], claiming its figures reflected a region in drought and a dry summer ahead.
"They drought map each shire and as at June 30, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, 62 per cent of that shire was in drought," he said. "I'll be asking for a forensic audit by the bureau to make sure their data collection was right. But that is the science that we predicate our decisions on and it should be… It should be predicated off the best science, and the bureau are the ones that provide that to us."
Local federal MP Dan Tehan confirmed that he hadn’t requested any money for drought assistance, noting that Moyne Shire had seen "a lot of spring rain".
"We think [the audit] will show quite clearly that Moyne isn't in drought,” he said. “We also look forward to the money being redirected to areas in greater need."
Fairfax reports that more than 50 millimetres fell last month alone in Port Fairy, the shire's biggest town, and farm paddocks were under water in nearby Tarrone and Kirkstall.
But while many people seem outraged at the fact that a relatively wet part of the country should be given drought assistance while other areas are struggling to survive, Scott Morrison was unapologetic.
"If people are accusing us of helping too much they can,” he said. “That's certainly much better than the alternative."
Which is presumably to say that spending money in the wrong place, by mistake, is better than spending no money at all.