‘Shovel-ready’ dol­lars to re­vive dy­ing towns

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - LINDA SILMALIS CHIEF RE­PORTER

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.

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