The South Burnett region of Queensland is located approximately two hours north-west of Brisbane and covers the area from the Blackbutt Range through to the borders of Kilkivan Shire near Gympie.
South Burnett has a strong agriculture industry, producing peanuts, navy beans, maize and wheat for both domestic and international markets, but has seen crops and businesses suffer over the past few years due to the lack of rain.
In 2018 the Regional Council received $1 million as part of the Australian Government’s Drought Communities Programme (DCP), and in November last year became eligible for a second $1million due to the continuing drought.
The aim of the DCP is to keep funds flowing through local shops and suppliers, support community wellbeing, and provide employment for people whose work opportunities have been affected by drought, by funding infrastructure and other drought relief projects.
“The long-term impacts of the drought have been felt widely, especially by farmers, their families and local businesses,” South Burnett CEO Mark Pitt explained.
“We were thrilled to receive the Drought Communities Programme grant because we knew the potential for that money to create local jobs and deliver meaningful change in the longer term.”
South Burnett Council completed its first round of DCP projects in 2019. The projects included a new roof for the Proston Showgrounds Pavilion, a repaint of the exterior of the Nanango Appin Street Aged Care Units, a chair lift installed at the Kingaroy Swimming Pool and the replacement of the famed dingo statue in the town of Wondai’s main area.
The program also funded a new equipment shed at the Wondai Swimming Pool, new toilet and shower facilities at Murgon SES, and new heat blankets for the Nanango Swimming Pool.
“The benefits of these projects are already being seen in the community, including a boost to the economy through local employment and flow-on effects to local businesses,” Mr Pitt said.
“The projects engaged local suppliers, employed six contractors, including local builders, plumbers and electricians, and sourced materials and equipment from across the region.”
Locals and visitors have already been making good use of the improved buildings and facilities, with the upgrades at Wondai Pool completed in time for the summer season.
South Burnett is now busy making plans for its future DCP projects. Proposed projects for this round of funding include the employment of a Drought Response Officer and support staff to assist people, communities and businesses access drought initiatives and build resilience to current and future drought conditions. Council also plans to use DCP funding to upgrade local infrastructure, including community buildings, parks, footpaths, roads and drainage.
“The community will continue to enjoy these upgrades for years to come, and we’re confident these projects will last well beyond the drought to help build local resilience,” Mr Pitt said.