Fund to help prevent homes running out of water as drought intensifies

GLEN Innes Severn council will build a $50,000 new water stand pipe at Deepwater as part of a project to fight drought and help farmers avoid running out of potable water on their property.

Council has also been approved to build new toilets in Apex and Melling Park with federal funding, a project that replaced a proposal to use the money to install a PA system on Grey Street. The two toilet projects will cost a total of $208,468 and council has another $300,000 worth of projects in the pipeline.

The Drought Communities Program is a federal grant program originally announced in 2015 where councils and communities affected by the drought can apply for cash to subsidise needed infrastructure and create jobs. Under round two of the program, announced in 2018, some 81 local government areas are drought-declared and therefore eligible for the program, including all of New England.

All told the scheme will cost the taxpayer $81 million.

General Manager Hein Basson said the Deepwater water stand pipe would be used by water trucks refilling empty water tanks at rural properties, though he said few or possibly no homes were in such a dire situation yet.

“People are going to run into trouble (in the future),” he said.

“I’m certainly not aware of people (in that situation) at this point in time,

“Before the rain we had last week certainly the creeks had dried up. The intervals between rain events seems to get longer so you just can’t have any faith and certainty that it is going to rain next week like it used to in New England.

“We had very reliable rainfall in summertime in the New England region but clearly we are in a phase now where that is not the case.”

Mr Basson also pointed to a number of additional projects the council has applied for funding to construct, anticipating around one million dollars out of the program in total.

Glen Innes Severn unsuccessfully applied for four projects, including funding for Highland Visitor Dollars/giftcards, a B2B leakage platform and a one-stop-shop for drought assistance.

Council has been advised to reapply for the last project with an amendment to a position title. They also plan to apply for $40,000 to hold a drought relief community event, to build new toilets and changing rooms at the King George Oval (costing $120,782), to upgrade a footpath on Lambeth street ($120,782). They also plan to apply for three additional projects including the main street PA project.

Glen Innes Severn has already been approved to spend $360,000 of federal money on gravel resheeting rural roads.

In October the council decided to prioritise two toilet projects over a different proposal to install a PA system on the main business district of Grey street in Glen Innes. That project was put off in order to prioritise the toilet construction projects.

Member for New England Barnaby Joyce, who is also the government’s special envoy for drought assistance and recovery, announced the funding success on Thursday.

“There are so many tourists that go through Glen Innes as part of the Celtic Festival by reason of being on the New England Highway,” Mr Joyce said.

“So this is vital, to ensure the amenities are to such a standard they keep the traveller comfortable.

“I fought for this for the people of the New England and it’s great to be delivering this funding for the construction of new toilet blocks at Apex and Melling parks.

“It is further delivery back to people of Glen Innes and further delivery to the New England.”