If you were handed a cheque for $1 million to spend on improvements to your town, what would you spend it on? This is the opportunity being given to regional councils throughout Australia that are eligible for the Australian Government’s Drought Communities Programme.
Councils can use the funding for local infrastructure and other drought relief projects, with the aim of employing local people and spending money with local suppliers, which helps support the wider community.
Typical projects include repairs to bridges and footpaths, creating welcoming streetscapes, and upgrades to sporting fields and swimming pools. Some councils have used the funds to improve their local water infrastructure, to help insure them against future droughts.
Other projects have a strong tourism focus, such as the creation of arts and music festivals, promoting local museums and galleries, and upgrading campgrounds and nature trails.
Not only do these locally-led projects stimulate employment in the region, but they deliver long-lasting benefits to local businesses and agricultural industries, improve community well-being and maximise the economic and social contribution of tourism.
Drought Coordinator-General Shane Stone has visited many of the projects on his travels throughout drought-impacted regions of Australia and is impressed by the programme.
“I have seen so many country towns doing it tough with the drought. But drought is different everywhere you go. The beauty of this program is that it is locally led and locally implemented – each council gets to decide the best way to spend the funds to get the best outcome for their own community.
“These types of projects go a long way towards keeping local people, businesses and suppliers in work,” Mr Stone said.
“We must remember that drought doesn’t end at the farm gate. It hurts surrounding communities by driving away families and businesses that are reliant on a viable farming industry.
“This funding is designed to counter the economic impacts of drought. An upgraded streetscape or playground may not sound like much, but it provides local employment, boosts community morale and gives tourists an incentive to stop in, explore the town and spend some dollars at the local shops.”
On 7 November 2019, the Government announced an additional $138.9 million in Drought Communities Programme funding for 128 councils in drought declared regions. The program has already funded more than 300 projects.
For more information about the Drought Communities Programme visit: https://www.regional.gov.au/regional/programs/drought-communities.aspx