Member for Lowan Emma Kealy has implored the Andrews Labor Government to back regional agricultural events that have been forced off the calendar due to COVID without any financial support from the government.
Events such as Hamilton’s Sheepvention and the Wimmera Machinery Field Days – Victoria’s longest-running field days – are an important part of the year for farmers and businesses alike.
But like so many things in 2020 and 2021, COVID restrictions cruelled any chance of the events being able to run.
Sheepvention – which normally runs in August each year – could not run in 2020 due to statewide lockdown, and this year organisers were forced to cancel due to the uncertainty about whether restrictions would lift sufficiently for the event to be able to cover costs.
The Wimmera Machinery Field Days committee was in the same position, making the difficult call last winter to cancel the 2021 event set for March.
Ms Kealy said that despite the vital opportunity these events provided for thousands of people each year to meet with fellow farmers and industry people, and the huge economic injection they gave local communities, they had largely been ignored by the Andrews Labor Government.
“If these events had access to guaranteed government funding support, they would most likely have been able to run in some capacity in 2021. But because of the lack of certainty with continual lockdowns and restrictions, organisers’ hands were forced and both events were off the calendar,” she said.
“The flow-on benefits for these events cannot be underestimated. Not only are they a connection point for people and businesses in the ag industry – something that is even more important now after the isolation created through COVID – they attract people to spend time and money in rural areas, they employ teams of staff to manage and run them, and they offer fundraising opportunities for local clubs.
“These events represent millions of dollars in value to local communities. They deserve support.”
Ms Kealy said the Victorian Government had recognised the value of events like conferences and exhibitions through grant streams to help businesses cover the costs associated with participating in such events.
But while businesses can seek support towards site costs, hire costs, staff travel and accommodation for such events, the events themselves are overlooked.
“It’s time the Andrews Labor Government realised just how crucial these events are for our agricultural and rural communities and ensure events like the Wimmera Machinery Field Days and Sheepvention have the funding – and, subsequently, the certainty – they need to be able to continue to be fixtures in our local communities for many years to come,” Ms Kealy said.