Frequently Asked Questions


Drought Assistance Packages

May 2020

The NSW Government will invest a further $310 million in emergency drought relief in recognition of the on-going drought conditions in regional NSW, extending emergency drought measures to help farmers and communities make it out of the worst drought in living memory.

This new investment takes the NSW Government’s total drought support and water security commitment to close to $4 billion.

Extended support includes:

  • $116 million to continue the Drought Transport subsidy
  • $99 million to continue waiving Local Land Services rates, bee site permits, Western Lands lease rent, wild dog fence rates and provide assistance for vehicle registration costs for eligible primary producers
  • $28.5 million to continue existing water licence fee waivers for stock, domestic, general and high security water users
  • Continuation of health and wellbeing programs, including the Farmgate Counsellors Program, Aboriginal wellbeing services and Royal Flying Doctors Far West Drought Support programs

See 2020 Drought Package for more.

June 2019

The NSW Government announced a further $185 million to continue the NSW Emergency Drought Relief Package, to help farmers manage the effects of the drought.

The extended NSW Emergency Drought Relief Package for 2019-20 includes:

  • $70 million to continue Drought Transport Subsidies for fodder, stock and water
  • $50 million to waive Local Land Services rates
  • $30 million to waive fixed water charges in rural and regional areas
  • $10 million to waive Farm Innovation Fund interest fees
  • $15 million for emergency town water supply assistance
  • $10 million to reduce the cost of farming , including apiary fee waivers, wild dog fence fee waivers, stock welfare panels and donated fodder

The NSW Government committed to new programs and increased funding in other critical areas, including:

  • $7 million for exemptions for agricultural vehicle registration fees
  • $8.2 million for counselling and mental health programs
  • $5.2 million to support preschool children and their families facing hardship due to drought
  • $5 million for training to upskill farmers and contractors
  • $1 million in grants to local sports organisations

An additional $10 million is allocated to targeted improvements to the Barwon-Darling river.

This is on top of the $400 million in election commitments, which includes:

  • $350 million to bolster the Farm Innovation Fund (FIF) infrastructure program
  • $37.5 million to fund an extension to the wild dog fence in Western NSW
  • $13 million to continue NSW support of the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative.

The package comes into effect on 1 July 2019.

June 2019

Inquiries regarding the Drought Stimulus Package can also be directed to the NSW Government.

In addition to the extension of the Emergency Drought Relief package, the NSW Government announced a new Drought Stimulus Package to help stimulate rural and regional economies impacted by this drought.

  • $170 million funding for infrastructure works, including enhancing water security and infrastructure in rural and regional towns:
    • $29.4 million for water infrastructure programs
    • $15.4 million for capital investment in rural and regional activities
    • $0.5 million to improve water usage in critical industries

NSW Government investment in drought support to June 2019 is more than $1.8 billion.

July 2018

The NSW Government announced a $500 million NSW Emergency Drought Relief Package to help farmers manage the effects of the current drought.

The three major elements of the $500 million NSW Emergency Drought Relief Package are:

  • $190 million for Drought Transport Subsidies
  • $100 million for cutting the cost of farming fees and charges – by waiving Local Land Services rates, waiving fixed water charges in rural and regional areas, and waiving class one agricultural vehicle registration costs
  • $150 million to bolster the Farm Innovation Fund (FIF) infrastructure program

The package also includes funding for:

  • Counselling and mental health;
  • Critical services in regional communities, including transporting water and drought related road upgrades and repairs
  • Animal welfare and stock disposal.

NSW Government investment in drought support to June 2018 is $1.1 billion.


The NSW Government launched a $300 million Drought Strategy focusing on preparedness, improved decision making and targeted support for rural communities. In the 2018 NSW Budget, the Government boosted drought assistance by $284 million.

The emergency package was announced on 30 July 2018 and became effective immediately. It includes a range of measures, some of which retrospectively apply to the 2017/18 financial year, and some from 1 January 2018. The NSW Rural Assistance Authority started processing Transport Subsidy applications from 6 August 2018.

The continuing and compounding effects of the current drought mean that in 2018, NSW had its driest start to a year since 1982. The NSW Government assessed the conditions in July 2018 and announced the Emergency Drought Relief Package to ease financial pressure on farmers and support the communities affected.

The extension of the Emergency Drought Relief package, announced in June 2019 and taking effect from 1 July 2019, is in response to the prolonged and protracted drought and a negative outlook for the season ahead. The Government will continue its Emergency Drought Relief package in 2019-20 to help alleviate some of the immediate financial pressures facing our farmers and regional communities.

NSW Department of Primary Industries is implementing the proposed measures in consultation and collaboration with the Department of Industry, Roads & Maritime Services, NSW Health, Service NSW, Water NSW, Local Land Services, the Department of Premier and Cabinet and NSW Treasury.

Cutting the cost of farming

Drought conditions have had severe direct impacts on the financial performance of farmers throughout NSW, who are trying to manage their property and livestock. The Government has introduced a number of new measures to help reduce the financial pressure on farmers and farm businesses.

Visit the Available Drought Assistance in NSW page on Drought Hub for more details of available rate waivers and subsidies.

Critical services to regional communities

As a result of the drought, water storage levels have decreased to 39.5 percent and local roads are rapidly deteriorating across the state. To maintain the regional infrastructure that is critical to regional and remote communities the Government is allocating funding to improving council roads and water transport, including utilities and household water. This includes emergency water supply funding and drought related road upgrades and repairs.

The NSW Government recognises that this is a very difficult time for farming families and their communities. Serious mental health and wellbeing issues are often hidden and can include depression, anxiety, relationship breakdown and suicide.

Across the state, the NSW Government is providing practical support through the Local Land Services and Rural Assistance Authority, and financial and emotional support through the Rural Financial Counselling service and NSW Rural Resilience Program. Visit Available drought assistance in NSW on Drought Hub for all support services and tools available to NSW farmers and their families.

To find an office or service in your area, search the Assistance Near You map on Drought Hub.

If you or someone you know would like additional support or a person to talk to, the following organisations are available 24 hours a day to assist:

Financial assistance


What kinds of courses can I access?

Numerous training courses are available and include but are not limited to:

For more information on courses that will suit your specific circumstances please call your local Training Services NSW Office on 13 28 11.

How much will the courses cost me?

The courses are fully subsidised by the NSW Government under the State Government’s Smart and Skilled Program.

The general public can already apply for these subsidies courses, however, access to training involves approval based on competing priorities.  Under this initiative access to the subsidised  courses is guaranteed for any farmer or business owner that meets the eligibility criteria

Am I eligible?

Eligible applicants meet the following criteria:

  • Drought affected business owner or farmer
  • Live in a postcode with regional NSW (defined as all of NSW outside Sydney Metro, Newcastle and Wollongong)
  • Meet the Smart and Skilled eligibility:
    • 15 years or older
    • No longer at school
    • Living or working in NSW
    • Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident, humanitarian visa holder or New Zealand citizen

Why is this support available?

Due to the severity of the drought, some farming businesses are experiencing income losses or business closure.  This access to funding aims to provide a pathway to alternative income sources or new career options.


What can I use the Drought Assistance Fund for?

This program provides interest free loans to primary producers to deliver systems and practices that improve their business’ sustainability, such as;

  1. Transport of livestock, transport of fodder and/or water
  2. Water and fodder infrastructure
  3. Banking of genetic material of livestock;

If I have a Drought Assistance Fund loan already, how much can I borrow in the 2020/21 financial year?

From 1 July 2020 the NSW Government has lifted the cap for the Drought Assistance Fund (DAF) to $100,000 per primary producer.

For example:

A farmer who borrowed $50,000 under the Drought Assistance Fund in year 2019/20 (last financial year), can borrow an additional $100,000 this financial year.

Is the loan term of the Drought Assistance Fund still 7 years?


Is the repayment free period still two years?

Yes. There is no need to make repayments for two years from the date the loan is fully drawn down and then up to five years of principal-only repayments.

Is the interest rate still 0%

Yes. There is no interest on this loan. The principal must be repaid within seven years.

What is the Farm Innovation Fund?

The Farm Innovation Fund is a long term, low interest rate loan for NSW farmers for permanent on-farm infrastructure.

What changes have been announced regarding the Farm Innovation Fund?

As of 1 July 2019, you can borrow a maximum of $1,000,000 per project, with a total of $1,000,000 outstanding at any one time.

All costs associated with establishing stock containment areas are now eligible under the Farm Innovation Fund.

Additional funding to the Emergency Drought Relief Package takes the NSW Government commitment to the Farm Innovation Fund to $1 billion.


What do the changes to Class 1 Agriculture Vehicles include?

The waiver of registration costs for primary producers with Class 1 agricultural vehicles has now ended.

What registration relief is available to primary producers?

The current primary producer rebate on heavy vehicle registration costs, which was also due to expire, has been extended for another year, until 30 June 2021.

This means that eligible primary producers will continue to receive a rebate on the registration charge for their heavy vehicles, providing much needed ongoing financial relief.

Why are bee site permit fees being waived?

To provide relief to beekeepers during the current drought conditions the NSW Government is waiving annual fees for existing beekeeping permits on public land.

How long are the fees being waived for?

Fees are being waived for the 2018/2019, 2019/20 and 2020/21 financial years.

  • Annual LLS apiary site permits from July 2018 to June 2021
  • Forestry Corporation NSW from October 2018 to September 2021 and
  • NPWS from January 2019 to December 2021.

What permits does the fee waiver apply to?

The waiver applies to annual permit fees for existing permits including: LLS apiary site permits, Forestry Corporation NSW apiary permits and NPWS apiary licenses and permits.

Will new permits (e.g. issued through an Expression of Interest or Long term Vacant Allocation Process) be free of charge?

The fee waiver provides relief for existing permit holders at the date of the announcement.

Annual fees for these permits will be free of charge in 2020/21.

Any new apiary permits issued during 2020/21 will be subject to the standard annual fee.

I have received an invoice. What do I do?

If you are a new permit holder, this invoice can be paid as usual.

If the invoice is for an existing permit, you will automatically receive a credit adjustment and receive a new invoice showing zero balance owing for the 2020/21 financial years.

If you have further questions about the Fee waivers please contact

Who does this waiver apply to?

All existing Farm Innovation Fund and Special Conservation Fund customers, and all applicants who submitted an application on or before 30 June 2021 will have applicable interest charges for the first six months of the 2020/21 financial years waivered.

Do I need to apply for the Farm Innovation Fund interest waiver?

No. The refund will be applied and processed automatically.

How does this affect the term and repayments for my loan?

The refund will be a separate transaction and there is no requirement to change any existing loan details.

For more information contact NSW Rural Assistance Authority or call 1800 678 593

What do the changes include

  • Allow eligible vehicles transporting hay to travel under notice and without a permit, including B-doubles up to 26 metres long
    • Up to 2.83 metres wide on all approved roads
    • Up to 4.6 metres high, on the approved 4.6 metre high network
  • On a case-by-case basis, allow access permits for road trains on roads not currently approved for road trains
  • An extra $15 million has already been committed for road maintenance
  • On a case-by-case basis, provide access permits for trucks transporting loads of hay in excess of 4.6 metres high
  • Refund National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and Roads and Maritime permit fees for drought relief applications
  • A dedicated hotline (1800 952 292) and Freight to drought areas website for any questions or queries transport operators or farmers may have

Where do I get more information?

For more information visit the RMS Freight to drought areas page

Who does the Local Land Services rate waiver apply to?

The NSW Government has waived LLS rates for all landholders for 2019, 2020 and 2021. You do not need to apply for this waiver - it will be applied automatically. For more information, contact LLS on 1300 795 299.

Which Local Land Services rates will be waived?

All LLS rates, including General Rates and rates for Animal Health, Pest Animals and Pest Management, the Meat Industry Levy, and costs of Routine Stock Moving Permit and Stock Identification will be waived for 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Will I still receive a Local Land Services rate notice?

All landholders will receive a rate notice for 2021 in January detailing the charges that would normally be payable that year. The notice will show that the NSW Government’s Emergency Drought Relief Package has paid the rates for 2021.

Does the LLS waiver apply to unpaid rates from previous years?

The waiver applies to 2019, 2020 and 2021 rates only. It is understood that some drought affected farmers may be having difficulty paying unpaid rates from previous years. If this is the case, please contact your nearest Local Land Services Office to discuss options, which may include a payment plan tailored to your individual circumstances.

How will Local Land Services be funded in 2021 if no rates are collected?

The NSW Government will compensate for the lost revenue.

Who is eligible for a rebate on fixed charges on general security or general access water licences?

A rebate of up to $4,000 per licence applies to the fixed component of bills for general water access licence holders in rural and regional NSW across surface (regulated and unregulated rivers) and groundwater systems, and to customers of Irrigation Corporation.

The majority of eligible licence holders received a rebate of the entire amount of fixed charges in their bills issued in 2019/20 and will receive a rebate again in their bills this year.

Who is eligible for a rebate of fixed water charges for domestic and stock and high security licences on regulated rivers?

For the 2019/20 water year domestic and stock and high security licence holders in the NSW Border Rivers, Lower Namoi, Upper Namoi, Peel, Macquarie and Lower Darling regulated rivers also received a rebate of their fixed water charges.

These regulated rivers had either ceased to flow so no water was available, allocations to domestic and stock and high security users had been restricted, or water could not be delivered to some high security and domestic and stock users in the river system in 2019/20.

Generally conditions have improved at the start of 2020/21 compared to the last water year. The rebate will apply in 2020/21 to the NSW Border Rivers, Peel and Lower Namoi rivers where allocations are still restricted or deliveries from regulated flow are not assured.

Will I receive a water licence bill?

Yes. The waivers apply to the fixed component of these water charges. The water usage fee component will still apply to all water users.

What time period does it apply to?

Eligible licence holders in rural and regional NSW will have the fixed charge component of their next water bill waived.

Do I need to apply or register?

No. This waiver will apply automatically.

Services and Tools

How can Business Connect support my business?

Business Connect advisors are experienced professionals who provide confidential advice independently from the NSW Government. Advisors can support you to tackle a range of business matters such as business planning, looking at your options and diversification opportunities, marketing, digital marketing and HR.

Advisors have experience running a small business themselves and have a qualification in a business-related discipline. Our accredited advisors also have management, consulting or prior experience giving business advice with a broad range of skills covering essential business topics.

With a network of local advisors available across NSW, complemented by specialist support and hundreds of practical workshops and events each year,  Business Connect provides the advice, skills and information you need at any stage of your business.

How do I book an advisory session?

Register online or call 1300 134 359 to connect with your local Business Connect advisor.

Your local advisor can come to your business premises at a time that suits you (including outside normal business hours), or you can choose to meet at a convenient location or have an advisory session by telephone.

Multicultural advisors are available for Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Korean speakers.

Am I eligible for Business Connect support?

If you own a business in NSW, then Business Connect can help. Support is available for all industries including retailers, tourism operator, contactors and farm-business

How much does Business Connect cost?

The first four hours of one-to-one business advice is free.

Workshops, seminars and further advisory sessions are affordable and highly subsidised by the NSW Government. If you are in hardship circumstances, please speak to your advisor.

Visit the Business Connect FAQ page for more information.

When is the Business Bus in my area?

The Business Bus provides mobile business support, find out when the bus is in your area and book online or call 1300 134 359.

Does the NSW Government have an official charity partner to help support farmers?

On 19 August 2018, the NSW Government announced a partnership with not-for-profit GIVIT, as an official partner to manage offers of assistance (items and/or money) for farmers, their families and rural communities experiencing hardship due to the current drought.

By working with hundreds of local charities, schools and community service providers, GIVIT  connects those who need help with those willing to give.

This partnership will help ensure the donations that are coming in are matched with the people who need them most.

To donate to GIVIT or register items that you need, visit GIVIT.

Farm Tracker - A guide for farmers

Farm Tracker is a simple tool farmers can use to record seasonal conditions, taking the hassle out of record keeping. Farm Tracker allows you to:

  • Complete a simple crop, pasture or animal survey
  • Keep and manage a photo diary of your farm
  • Monitor the same paddock over many years
  • Reports can be completed in a few minutes and they are synchronised with a personal database as well as the statewide database when within mobile or wi-fi range.

Read more and download the app from Farm Tracker - A guide for farmers.

Why has the government committed funding to support services?

In addition to economic impacts, the drought has also increased mental health issues such as depression and anxiety in rural communities and households about immediate circumstances and future prospects, increasing the vulnerability of families and children.

What will the support service funding be allocated to?

Funding will improve access to and delivery of mental health services in rural and remote communities. This includes expansion of the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program to support communities facing hardship.

Visit the Wellbeing page on Drought Hub for more information

Is this new support service funding?

Yes, this funding is in addition to the $4 million allocated to rural mental health services in the NSW state budget.

Managing Drought

Household water supply

If you are carting water for domestic purposes, check with your local Council that you are using a potable water standpipe.

Drinking water from potable water filling stations complies with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and is safe to drink without further treatment. It is essential to collect water into clean containers to make sure it remains safe to use. Do not use containers that have previously held chemicals or fuel.

Follow the steps below to ensure your water remains safe:

  • Use a suitable container that has not held hazardous substances
  • If the container hasn’t been used for a while, rinse any hoses and taps, other fittings, and the inside of the tank with drinking water before filling
  • Seal the tank and hoses to protect from contamination during transport
  • Ideally, tanks should be cleaned before refilling. If cleaning is not possible, fill carefully to try not to stir sediment at the base of the tank.

Contact your local Public Health Unit for advice on 1300 066 055 if you have already topped up your household tank and you are not sure of the quality.

You should follow the NSW Guidelines for Water Carters (NSW Health).

By following these Guidelines, a water carter will be considered to have developed a Quality Assurance Program as required by the Public Health Act 2010 and the Public Health Regulation 2012.

  • Conditions of use and access vary across council regions. Please contact your local council for more information.
  • Find your local council’s contact details
  • Some council regions have published information about water filling stations on their website. The below table lists these councils and provides links to their webpages.

Council region

Website link to information about water filling stations

Albury City Council

Ballina Shire Council

Bathurst Regional Council

Bega Valley Shire Council

Bellingen Shire Council

Blayney Shire Council

Coffs Harbour City Council

Dubbo Regional Council

Greater Hume Council

Lachlan Shire Council

Parkes Shire Council

Riverina Water County Council

Tamworth Shire Council

Temora Shire Council
Upper Hunter Shire Council

Animal husbandry and welfare

In order to manage the animal welfare impacts of drought the Government is allocating funding to implement Stock Welfare Panel interventions, including a Stock Disposal Scheme.

A stock welfare panel is a group of experts established to provide expert care and advice to stockowners so they can address animal welfare concerns. The panel has the capacity to investigate and report on the state of animals on a particular property and issue directions for their care to the landholder.

Authorities have the option to remove and dispose of livestock where animal cruelty offences have been identified, sometimes after information from the community. This can only occur after the owner or person responsible has failed to take action to improve the welfare of the animals on the advice of a Stock Welfare Panel.

The NSW Emergency Drought Relief Package includes resources for the creation of a Stock Disposal Scheme to relieve the burden on farmers who are managing drought affected stock.

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