Funding package aims to help agricultural societies cover costs

Peter Nelson on Khan during competition on day one of the 2019 Hawkesbury Show, held at Hawkesbury Showground, Clarendon. Picture: Geoff Jones
Peter Nelson on Khan during competition on day one of the 2019 Hawkesbury Show, held at Hawkesbury Showground, Clarendon. Picture: Geoff Jones

Hawkesbury Agricultural Association president Ross Matheson is hopeful a slice of Federal Government funding heads to the showground after a year destroyed by COVID-19.

Yesterday [Thursday, June 25] the government announced a new package - titled Suppoorting Agricultural Shows - aimed at assisting associations and societies around the country that had been forced to cancel their annual shows.

The 2020 Hawkesbury Show was to be held on May 1-3 but was canceled after social distancing laws were put in place.

Each year, the show attractions tens of thousands of visitors and involves much in the way of work and financial outlay for its organisers, the association.

Under the new $36 million funding package, $70,000 is available to show societies with shows boasting a 2019 attendance of more than 5000.

According to a joint release issued by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud, this aspect of funding will not be competitive.

"All agricultural shows that have cancelled their show in 2020 because of COVID-19 will be eligible and they will not have to compete for assistance," the release stated.

On top of this funding, the association may also claim for unrecoverable funds directly due to canceling the show.

"Eligible reimbursement costs are expected to include: bank fees, utilities, rates, insurance, fire alarms and equipment, cleaning supplies, telecommunications, IT system licencing costs, website costs, state/national show body affiliation fees and rent," the release continued.

2020 has been a devastating year for the local association, with not only the cancellation of the annual show, but many other events which have become regular annual attractions at the showground, including Winterfest.

"We are hopeful that we will get some money through for to enable us to continue operations," said Mr Matheson.

Mr Littleproud said the funding was "a one-off reimbursement to agricultural show societies to deal with cash flow pressures caused by COVID-19".

"This funding supports not only the big Royal Shows in each capital but right down to the small country show, because we acknowledge the role shows play in connecting agriculture and regional Australia to metropolitan Australians," he said.

"There is a real risk that if we don't help that not only could Royal Shows cease to function the way they are now but also those small shows all of which are run by volunteers could fold."