ANZ halts drought farm foreclosures

THE ANZ Bank has put a halt to forcing drought-stricken North West graziers from their properties for the next year.

CRISIS: Federal member for Kennedy Bob Katter with state member for Mount Isa Rob Katter and state member for Dalrymple Shane Knuth.

CRISIS: Federal member for Kennedy Bob Katter with state member for Mount Isa Rob Katter and state member for Dalrymple Shane Knuth.

The change of heart comes after the banks copped a barrage of criticism from under-pressure graziers and angry leaders.

It comes as welcome news after the Rural Debt Crisis Summit at Winton on Friday, organised by state member for Mount Isa Rob Katter,  to help address the trouble facing debt-riddled graziers.

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce on Wednesday said banks would risk government intervention if they didn’t stop forcing drought-stricken farmers off their properties.

ANZ Australia chief executive Philip Chronican said an immediate moratorium would be imposed on all involuntary farm foreclosures in drought-affected parts of North and West Queensland, along with northern NSW, until January 2016.

“Parts of Queensland and northern New South Wales are experiencing some of the worst conditions in a generation,” he said. 

“We are acutely aware of the impact this is having on farmers, their families and on farming communities. 

“The aim of these measures is to ease financial concerns of farmers and to demonstrate ANZ’s commitment to working with them through the cycle.” 

“While taking possession of a farm is always the last option after all other avenues have been exhausted, we feel it’s prudent to take a pause on any new action given the severe impact the drought is having in Queensland and northern New South Wales.”

Mr Chronican said financial support would also be available to customers choosing to move off their land but  unable to do so due to financial distress.

“We will also be increasing funding for rural counselling programs throughout the impacted regions,” he said. 

“While we don’t know when this drought is going to break, we do know that many farming families have the capacity to be successful again in normal conditions.”

ANZ’s hardship team can be reached on 1800 252 845. 

Alternatively, customers can contact their local branch or relationship manager.

ANZ said the new package built on existing support available to drought-affected farmers in Queensland and New South Wales and includes: 

■a moratorium on new farm repossessions until December, 2015;

■a 12-month commitment not to increase interest rates on distressed farms and interest rate relief in cases of extreme distress;

■financial assistance to support farmers choosing to relocate off the land; and

■increased funding for rural counselling focused on towns hardest hit by drought.