Drought-ravaged rural residents to receive $1M assistance
RURAL residents will reap the rewards of an additional $1M in federal drought funding, as the council announces a series of proposed projects targeted towards cash-strapped farmers.
Water tank rebates, debit cards, shade sails and community hall upgrades were included on the list of purchases endorsed by the Southern Downs Regional Council.
The funding boost comes from the $100M drought support package announced by the Federal Government in September, which committed an additional $1M to 13 drought-affected council areas.
The decision to allocate most of the money to rural landholders was “unanimous”, according to councillor Sheryl Windle.
“Without this funding we wouldn’t have been able to help out people in rural areas,” she said.
“I don’t think we could have come up with anything better.”
The bulk of the cash will go towards water tank rebates for those not connected to the reticulated water supply, after the Federal Minister for Drought David Littleproud rejected a specific funding application earlier this year.
The $700,000 won’t allow for a tank for every rural resident, but those that fit the eligibility criteria will enjoy far greater water security in their homes, according to Councillor Neil Meiklejohn.
“This will make a big difference, that’s where the greatest need is,” he said.
Warwick cattle farmer Bill Gross said greater assistance for rural landholders would have flow-on effects to the rest of the economy.
“Everyone is in a bloody mess, financially,” Mr Gross said.
“If farmers don’t have water, they don’t have money, and they can’t spend that money in town.
“But this should definitely help.”
$100,000 will also be loaded onto debit cards for residents to spend locally, providing a much-needed boost to the damaged economy.
“These cards will be spent here which means the money stays within the local government area,” said Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie.
“It’s the same with the tank rebate: Every aspect aside from the manufacturing will be spent locally.
“We will have local men and women paid to undertake that work.”
Warwick Chamber of Commerce president Julia Keogh said she welcomed the move as it would have a far reaching impact on struggling business owners across the board. .
“I think it’s a really great initiative,” Ms Keogh.
“There certainly isn’t a lot of hard cash being spent in any of the regions impacted by the continuing drought, so this can only be a good thing.
“It’s something the chamber has been actively looking at for the past year and a half and our issue has always been finding the source of those external funds.”