Farm dam cleaning, extra farm labour, timber bridges, water security and a rodeo event have all made the wish list compiled by Tenterfield Shire councillors on how to spend the million dollars available to all New England councils under a special extension to the Drought Communities Program.
Councillors invested time following Mingoola’s meeting on Wednesday, August 22 to workshop ideas for the best use of the funding. Mayor Peter Petty said the 15-strong list of projects will now be run past specialists in MP Barnaby Joyce’s office to check which meet the grant criteria. The compliant ones will then be costed and prioritised to get under the $1 million cap.
The money has to be spent by next July, so Cr Petty said council is committed to acting quickly.
Items on the wish list include help for those impacted by upcoming timber bridge load limits in the form of diversions or even the hiring of smaller trucks that can use affected bridges. Councillors would like to hire labourers to assist farmers struggling to feed livestock and do other drought-related chores, as well as local contractors to clean out farm dams.
Community infrastructure spends like bringing the town’s ageing water filtration system up to spec and doing the work needed on the Shirley Park bore are included, as is water carting for those not on the town water supply and running dry.
It is hoped that funding can be secured to distribute Why Leave Town gift cards (in conjunction with the Salvation Army) as a drought relief measure to also benefit local businesses, who may also be in line for relief of council fees under the program.
“We’re trying to spread the benefits across the board,” Cr Petty said.
In the event category, councillors supported Cr Petty’s suggestion to bring back another National Rodeo Association final to the Tenterfield Showground in November, after the first final hosted by the Show Society two years ago attracted 1000 people and was considered a major success.
“It would bring the community together and be a great fundraiser,” he said.
Mr Joyce said all 10 councils in his electorate were eligible for the extension of the Drought Communities Program 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.
“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.”
The broad project categories 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
Mr Joyce said councils are 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.