ROAD TO RECOVERY: Alan and Agnes Bourzali lost their home in Caves Road, Stanthorpe fire in September. Federal funding has been distributed to help these communities rebuild, both physically and economically. Picture: David Martinelli.
ROAD TO RECOVERY: Alan and Agnes Bourzali lost their home in Caves Road, Stanthorpe fire in September. Federal funding has been distributed to help these communities rebuild, both physically and economically. Picture: David Martinelli.

REVEALED: Where $2M of federal funding will go

MILLIONS of dollars will be spent to ensure the survival of the community in worsening weather conditions, with funding funnelled towards projects such as water tank rebates and a firebreak master plan.

Southern Downs Regional Council met yesterday to vote on where the $1 million from the Federal Government's Drought Communities Program and $1 million from the national bushfire ­recovery program should be spent.

Councillors faced a delicate balancing act as they considered the suffering imposed by both drought and fire on all sectors, with Councillor Sheryl Windle admitting to losing sleep over the tough decisions ahead.

"It's so difficult to divvy it up and be fair," she said.

Tough eligibility criteria for the Drought Communities Program led to a number of proposals being shuffled across to the "no strings attached" bushfire recovery fund, such as the water tank rebate.

The original recommendation to use drought funding to extend the water tank rebate to rural residents was shut down by the Federal Government on the basis it benefited individuals rather than the community as a whole.

It was a disappointing blow, Councillor Neil Meiklejohn said.

Determined to deliver water to the residents who need it most, councillors voted to seek the tank rebate through the bushfire recovery fund and use a portion of that drought funding to cart hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of water to rural communities.

Other proposals, however, were scrapped altogether.

A drought stimulus plan to provide residents with geographically restricted debit cards was taken off the table due to practical difficulties.

Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said a bank manager gave her pause when he informed her of the cards' limitations.

"Organisations such as Woolies or Coles aren't registered as having their business here on the Southern Downs," she said.

"So if people tried to go into a supermarket to spend on their debit card, it would be rejected, and I don't want to place any of our residents in that situation."

Council voted, instead, to deliver the drought funding in three streams: shade sails for rural parklands; water carting; and a $300,000 cover for the Killarney off-stream storage.

Submissions were made to the Federal Government to determine whether the bushfire recovery fund could be spent on the water tank rebate, a plan to help the region through future environmental disasters, a fire break master plan and grants for regional community and sporting groups.

Councillors submitted more projects than may be feasible with the $1 million allocation, to shorten waiting and resubmission times should any of the proposals be denied.

Submissions will be sent to AusIndustry for drought funding consideration include:

1. Community Infrastructure Projects - $600,000, offered through three streams:
a. Directly funded projects for community organisations that were unsuccessful under Council's previous Drought Community Program which was open to expressions of interest in 2019. These projects will allow regional community organisations to undertake maintenance to halls, amenities, clubhouses etc.
b. High priority community infrastructure projects such as Killarney off stream storage cover or projects identified from the regional Urban Design Frameworks and endorsed Streetscape projects.
c. Expressions of interest from regional community organisations to undertake maintenance to community facilities including halls, clubhouses etc.

2. Shade structures in Council parks in rural villages - $200,000.

3. Pending rainfall and take up of funding for water carting, supply and delivery of potable water to rural landowners - $200,000, any unspent funds are to be reallocated to resolution (1) one above.   

Councillors sought feedback on the eligibility of the following initiatives under the Bushfire Recovery Funding Program:

• Water tank rebates for rural landowners (not connected to any reticulated water supply)

• Fire break master plan to identify future fire breaks and address construction and maintenance of additional fire breaks within the region

• Drought and bushfire regional readiness plan (inclusive of the adverse event plan)

• Expressions of interest from regional community and sporting organisations to undertake maintenance to community facilities including halls, clubhouses etc    



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