A Victorian council has formally rejected $1 million in Commonwealth drought relief funding.
Moyne Shire mayor Mick Wolfe said councillors unanimously decided they had no need for the federal government money.
“We are not in a drought down here – we appreciate the offer, but give it to somewhere that really needs it,” Mr Wolfe told Sky News on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison attempted to fend off questions about the head-scratching use of taxpayer funds, claiming he is happy being accused of being “too generous”.
Asked why he was being “defensive” and “narky” about the issue, Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said: “I’m not sure.”
“I think he’s just keen to get the money out the door and make sure our farmers have the support they need,” she told the Nine Network.
The shire, centred on Warrnambool in south-west Victoria, was one of 13 across the country allocated drought funding by the federal government. But local farmer and councillor Colin Ryan said on Monday that Moyne Shire was not affected by drought.
“We don’t need the money for drought reasons and I believe it should be redirected to more deserving areas of Australia,” he told the ABC’s AM show.
Drought Minister David Littleproud initially defended the grant, saying it was based on Bureau of Meteorology figures.
But in the face of criticism about the funding, he later said he would have the numbers used to allocate the funding checked.
On Tuesday, Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon said he thought there were be at least two other local council areas in a similar position to the Moyne Shire.
“It looks to me increasingly like this drought communities program might be more a pork barrel than one designed to help drought-stricken communities,” he told 2GB radio.