parachuteFEARS that local Landcare Groups and their projects will suffer as a result of almost $484 million in cuts in the Federal Budget are just plain wrong.

That’s the word from the man who should know, the Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

He says his department is ready to roll out a small grants program to replace the one previously funded through the Agriculture Department but was unable to say whether this would leave local Landcare groups, their farmer members and volunteers in better or worse shape.

All is yet to be revealed.

“We set out before the election that there would be a small grants program for Landcare, we’ve said it all along and there will be one,” Mr Hunt told the Sentinel-Times today.

“The details will be announced within the next six weeks.”

How much of the uncommitted sum of $173.8 million of funding in the Environment Department budget will go to small Landcare grants is unknown but Mr Hunt said on Friday, June 6 that it would be “substantial”.

He will get a chance to discuss these details, for the first time, with members of the Bass Coast Landcare Network and its nine Landcare Groups on Friday, June 20 at the Bass Hall, which he is also using as the first in a round of consultation meetings into how the grants program should be structured and targeted.

His comments follow publicity given to the efforts by Western Australia Senator Rachel Siewert to shed light on the cuts to Landcare at a recent Senate Budget Estimates session by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee.

Prior to that no one was talking about the outcome for Landcare leaving Australia’s 6000 Landcare groups in limbo.

The ball is now in Mr Hunt’s court and he claims there’s nothing to worry about.