I have often heard it said that a week is a long time in politics, well, now I can say I've lived it early in my career as your elected representative.
My congratulations to the Hon Paul Toole on his election to the leadership of the NSW Nationals state parliamentary team and to the Hon Bronnie Taylor on her appointment as deputy leader.
I also want to express my gratitude to former leader, John Barilaro, who helped me enormously as a coach, a captain and for performing his role as our leader with distinction.
One of Paul Toole's first commitments as Nationals leader was to invite new Premier Dominic Perrottet to join him for a regional tour and I look forward to having the Upper Hunter electorate on the map when the trip happens.
On the reopening road
New South Wales commences the journey this week following the Reopening NSW Roadmap.
If you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 you can now enjoy an easing of restrictions with further benefits to follow on the Monday after the 80 per cent double dose rate is reached.
Regional workers who have received one dose of vaccine are permitted to return to work and have until November 1 to receive their second dose.
Schools in the Upper Hunter electorate where stay at home orders have already been lifted resumed learning face-to-face last week with Muswellbrook schools expected to return this week.
More roadmap details are available at www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/easing-covid-19- restrictions/70-percent
COVID-19 business hardship
Business and not-for-profit organisations that were unable to access NSW Government COVID-19 support payments can now have their case reconsidered by a business hardship review panel.
I encourage unsuccessful applications for the 2021 COVID-19 business grant, COVID-19 micro business grant or JobSaver payment to submit their details for special consideration by the program.
Revenue NSW, NSW Treasury and Service NSW are represented on the panel which is reviewing applications on a case-by-case basis.
Businesses must be able to demonstrate financial hardship as a result of NSW public health orders. Decisions are final and cannot be appealed.
Assistance from the Service NSW Business Concierge is available to determine if you are eligible for a hardship review.
More information can be found at www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/apply-covid-19-business-support-hardship-review
Harvest haulage Covid-safe
Harvest contractors will be able to use the freight-friendly testing sites designed to keep freight moving and drivers COVID safe under the latest measure the NSW Government is rolling out to support the industry through a bumper harvest.
Harvest contractors and their pilot vehicle crews can get tested at the 11 sites located along key freight routes alongside truckies and other freight workers in a move to help harvest crews move safely across NSW and help them meet border entry COVID-19 testing requirements of neighbouring states.
Producers and freight operators will also benefit from the Grain Harvest Management Scheme, which was introduced as a drought recovery initiative and allows for an additional five per cent weight on loads to boost efficiencies right across the state.
Freight-friendly testing sites include the northbound Branxton rest area on the Hunter Expressway. The full list of sites is available at www.transport.nsw.gov.au/operations/freight-hub/transport-for-nsw-response-to-covid-19-for-freight-industry
Domestic and stock water exemption
The NSW Government will make it easier for small water users to access the resource under new rules which deliver more consistency to the Government's metering policy.
Up-to-500 small water users who draw supplies under a domestic and stock water access licence will soon be exempt from non-urban metering rules, fixing an inconsistency in the NSW Government's metering policy.
The exemption will apply to pumps smaller than 100mm and bores that are smaller than 200mm, which are used solely to take water under a domestic and stock water access licence.
The exemption will not apply to works that supply town water, take water from at risk groundwater sources or properties with other metered works.
The exemption once drafted will apply until 1 December 2024. The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment will directly contact water users who will be affected by the exemption.
Storm and flood assistance
Primary producers affected by storm and flood across much of the Upper Hunter electorate earlier this year are urged to apply for recovery support through the $80 million Storm and Flood Industry Recovery Program, co-funded by the Australian and NSW governments.
The weather events that impacted the Dungog, Liverpool Plains, Mid-Coast, Muswellbrook and Singleton council areas in March caused significant damage to local farms whilst also affecting the businesses that rely on these industries.
The Storm and Flood Industry Recovery Program supports the medium and longer- term recovery needs of impacted primary producers as they recover and rebuild, in turn helping other businesses and communities that rely on these industries to remain viable into the future.
The program will be delivered in two distinct funding streams; the Supply Chain Support Grant and the Sector Recovery and Resilience Grant.
Applications can be made online via the Rural Assistance Authority until 3 March 2022. All works must be completed, and invoices submitted to the RAA by 30 May 2023. General enquires about the program can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.