A $36 million federal government lifeline has been announced to help agricultural show societies recover from the effects of COVID-19, ensuring they can continue after the pandemic.
Regional Development Minister Michael McCormack said the COVID-19 pandemic had hurt agricultural shows, with most expected to be cancelled for 2020 in the interest of public health and social distancing measures.
"Agricultural shows are part of the fabric of regional Australia, showcasing everything positive about our communities and local industries," he said.
"These shows are estimated to contribute $1 billion to the economy each year and attract six million patrons annually, supported by 50,000 volunteers.
"They create social bonds and improve mental health in parts of regional Australia where distance, drought, bushfires and now COVID-19 have caused significant hardship and distress."
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Beaudesert Show Society secretary Andrea McFarlane said a lot of preparation had already gone into this year's show.
"It was to be our 125th show and canceling it hurt," she said.
"Nobody wanted to cancel this year's show but we had to do it."
Ms McFarlane said the COVID-19 situation represented the third year in a row that the event had taken a financial hit.
"Last year we had the fires and the year before that we were rained out," she said.
"We prepare for shows well ahead and this year was set to be bigger than ever.
"Any grant we are able to get will be greatly appreciated."
Agriculture, Drought Minister David Littleproud said the Supporting Agricultural Shows program would provide a one-off reimbursement to agricultural show societies to deal with cash flow pressures caused by COVID-19 related cancellation of agricultural shows.
"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.
"In addition, $100,000 will go towards supporting the Agricultural Shows Australia rural ambassador program, which will enable the vital community work the ambassadors perform in regional Australia to continue.
"I encourage my State and Territory counterparts to also make a contribution to help agricultural shows survive the impact of COVID-19 because of the positive impact they have on their economies."
Tamborine Mountain AH&I Society secretary Amanda Thorley said canceling the show had a huge financial impact.
"Our showground is not on council land, it's privately owned so costs like insurance, electricity, rates and general maintenance fall on us to pay," she said.
"This year we will be holding a scaled-down version of the show in September but a grant would make the difference to being able to hold our normal show in March."
Mr Littleproud said the funding had three components:
- $10 million in operational support for local show societies. Shows will be able to claim up to $10,000 if their attendance last year was less than 2,000, up to $15,000 if their attendance was between 2,000 and 4,999 and up to $70,000 if their attendance was over 5,000.
- $26 million in operational support for Royal Agricultural Show societies which can additionally to claim for unrecoverable costs associated with preparing for the cancelled show.
- $100,000 in operational support for Agricultural Shows Australia's Rural ambassador program.
All agricultural shows that cancelled their show in 2020 because of COVID-19 would be eligible and would not have to compete for assistance.
Eligible reimbursement costs were 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.
For more information on the Fund, visit regional.gov.au/regional/programs/covid-19-relief-and-recovery-fund