‘Shovel-ready’ dollars to revive dying towns
DROUGHT-stricken communities will receive almost $70 million to pay for a mix of “shovel-ready” projects aimed at reviving local economies.
The projects, which are part of a $170 million state government drought stimulus package, are in addition to $96 million worth of projects already allocated towards airport upgrades, events such as the Deni Ute Muster, CBD revitalisation works and industrial parks.
The details of the second funding allocation — which included projects such as tourism infrastructure and main street revitalisations — are in the final stages of assessment, with the state government to unveil the details shortly.
Declaring a “war on drought”, NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro described the rain outlook as “grim” as towns count down to running out of water. However, the Deputy Premier said he would be doing everything in his power to extend the time that towns hit “Day Zero”.
“Make no mistake, there is no corner of this state that is untouched by drought. In the state’s west, the situation is grim,” he said. “Long-term forecasts tell us that the significant and sustained rainfall needed to break this drought isn’t coming any time soon.
“Together, we will fight for every extra minute we can add to extend these countdowns, so that the clocks never reach Day Zero. We are at war with drought and this is a war that I and my colleagues will fight on the front lines.”
Mr Barilaro said more than half of the $1.8 billion Drought Package — put together after The Sunday Telegraph’s Big Dry campaign revealed the plight of NSW farmers and kickstarted their financial help through charity events — had already been rolled out.
It included almost $450 million in farm loans, more than $95 million for fodder, water and stock transportation and almost $95 million towards emergency water projects.
Another $263 million has been spent on community support measures, ranging from Rural Mental Health programs to rate waivers, while $988 million will go towards 175 water-securing projects such as building and upgrading water storages, pipelines and bores.
The state government has also allocated $9 million to fasttrack regional water strategies for every catchment area, while also co-funding $1 billion worth of dam upgrades with the federal government.
With Sydney also on restrictions, the state government has launched a campaign to encourage city residents to also save water.
City dwellers wanting to help their rural counterparts are also being encouraged to consider holidaying in a regional town instead of overseas.
Dam levels continue to drop with city drinking water supplies at 48.1 per cent — down 0.3 per cent from the previous week. Rural supplies are at 31 per cent.
The latest NSW Bureau of Meteorology rainfall outlook released last week has predicted below average falls for the remainder of this month and November.
“The people of NSW are right to expect their government to respond to this drought with drive and determination,” Mr Barilaro said.
“We are all in this together, all of us … time and time again, we’ve seen Australians pull together in a time of crisis and this is no different.”
Farmer Richard Gillham carries his exhausted dog on his back after feeding sheep at his drought-affected paddock near Boggabri in northwest NSW.