Centrally located in New South Wales, the area around Parkes is well known for its agriculture, transport and tourism industries.
While events like the Parkes Elvis Festival and the Trundle ABBA Festival keep the locals buoyed, ongoing drought conditions are deeply impacting the broader community, including for farmers and local business.
When the Parkes Shire Council became eligible for $1 million under the Australian Government’s Drought Communities Programme Extension in 2018, funding was allocated to critical community support projects: the Revitalising Parkes Shire Townships project, and the Standpipe Upgrade and Local Drought Response projects.
The Revitalising Parkes Shire Townships project:
- Upgraded the Cookamidgera Hall and the Peak Hill Carrington Hotel
- Built amenities at Trundle Showground (jointly funded with the NSW State Government) and the Alectown Soldiers Memorial Hall
- Improved irrigation for the Bogan Gate Memorial Park
- Constructed multi-purpose sports courts at Tullamore
These projects will achieve a range of long-term impacts, including helping to increase tourism in the region, improve infrastructure for local events, and create renewed public spaces to strengthen social ties and community wellbeing.
Sandy Stanbrook from the Tullamore Consultative Committee said the upgrade to the town’s sports facilities has been an absolute positive for the town.
“We have had some difficult times and there are more to come, but having facilities such as these will allow people to get out into the community and engage in sporting activities more regularly,” she said.
“I think the federal Government has been very generous in allowing councils to use this money to improve different types of community facilities.”
Likewise, Maurice Davey of the Alectown Soldiers Memorial Hall Committee praised the $110,000 investment in the community’s meeting point.
“The Alectown Hall has a long history – it’s 86-years-old,” he noted.
“The community needs somewhere to gather during these tough times. This has been one of the longest droughts in living memory, so it’s important to get people off their farms and bring them together socially – to talk, enjoy each other’s company and take their mind of the drought for a while.”
More water available, more quickly
The $300,000 Standpipe Upgrade project involved upgrading access to domestic and stock water free of charge for rural residents in five townships.
Director of Infrastructure at Parkes Shire Council, Andrew Francis, said each of the townships already had standpipes installed, but most were small and located at the end of water networks.
“A good example is the standpipe in Peak Hill,” he explained.
“We upgraded the standpipe there from 50mm to 100mm. Now the fill time for a large tanker has gone from 50 minutes down to about 10 minutes.”
An expert on the ground
Central to Council's drought investment was the appointment of Drought Response Officer, Roger Kitson under the Local Drought Response Program.
Council identified the need for a support role to assist people with drought funding information and advice, providing a vital link between the community and government support agencies
“The role ensures we can co-ordinate an effective drought response on behalf of the people of the Parkes Shire,” Mr Kitson explained.
“The purpose of my role is to distribute relevant drought information throughout the community. The initial impact of the drought has obviously affected our farmers, but the prolonged effects have really impacted the entire community and agribusiness sector.”
Parkes Shire Mayor Cr Ken Keith OAM noted having a dedicated Drought Response Officer was important for the community.
“As well as providing some hands-on assistance, Mr Kitson has been an invaluable asset to drought-affected residents and businesses across the Shire,” he said.
“The long-lasting benefits of the Drought Communities Programme projects are already being realised, having boosted local employment and procurement, as well as addressing a number of social and community needs.
“The programme has directly stimulated the region’s economy through the use of local tradespeople and apprentices, including creating employment for 47 contractors across the projects.”
On 7 November 2019, Council became eligible to receive another $1 million under the programme to provide further support for the community as drought conditions continue.
A video of the Drought Communities Programme benefits for Parkes Shire can be watched here https://vimeo.com/354118620.