$1million Drought Communities Programme funding is up for grabs

Eric Noakes

Eric Noakes

Walcha Council is eligible for  $1million  in funding as part of the  extended Drought Communities Programme for local councils – but it needs to be spent by next July.

Last month an additional $75 million in further support for drought stricken communities was announced by the Coalition Government as part of the next phase of the drought package.

Mayor of Walcha Eric Noakes said Councillors were aware of the funding and had discussed it at the August ordinary council meeting.

“Each Councillor is looking at projects and seeking input from residents,” he said.

“Council discussed projects but until the guidelines are released we don’t know which ones will fit these. Hopefully these guidelines will be released soon and we can concentrate on those projects that fit. Obviously to keep the money in town and benefit the community infrastructure projects using local labour would be a priority.”

Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, said all ten councils in his electorate were eligible for the extension of this assistance.

“Every council in the New England, from the Upper Hunter to Tenterfield, can apply for this funding which demonstrates just how widespread and how seriously we are taking these worsening drought conditions in our region,” Mr Joyce said.

“It will give local councils on the ground the opportunity to use the drought funding where they see fit whether that’s for transporting water, community drought information sessions or hiring extra hands to help with the drought relief measures.”

Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government John McVeigh said the fund would provide immediate and short-term support for farmers and regional communities doing it tough.

“We are providing an additional $75 million this financial year for eligible councils to address local needs,” Dr McVeigh said.

“This is a terrible drought affecting the livelihoods and wellbeing of our farmers and regional communities, particularly those in New South Wales and Queensland. This fund targets those most seriously impacted by the drought.”

infrastructure projects using local labour would be a priority

Walcha Mayor Eric Noakes

The funding will deliver flexibility for councils to choose projects that will have the biggest impact. These can include:

·         Employing local contractors to undertake repairs and maintenance

·         Upgrading or building new community facilities

·         Holding events and undertaking drought-relief activities

·         Carting potable water into communities for drinking and bathing

Through the Drought Communities Programme the Coalition Government has funded 135 projects in 23 local government areas since 2015-16.

The additional funding for the program will initially offer $1 million in grants funding to 60 eligible drought-affected councils to provide immediate and short-term support for their communities.

Councils will be invited to submit appropriate projects, which address local conditions and needs. The program will prioritise projects that use local businesses to the greatest degree possible.

New England councils eligible for the Drought Communities Programme  along with Walcha are Armidale Regional; Glen Innes Severn Shire; Gwydir; Inverell; Liverpool Plains ; Tamworth Regional; Tenterfield ; Upper Hunter; and Uralla.