Glen Innes Severn Council will spend $1 million in funding by the Drought Communities Fund to build new infrastructure

Glen Innes Severn has spent a million federal dollars fighting the drought.
Glen Innes Severn has spent a million federal dollars fighting the drought.

A new bike and walking track to be built in Glen Innes will be among the last projects funded by a Federal drought busting scheme.

The Federal Drought Communities fund subsidises local councils, who can apply for funding to construct infrastructure and other projects through what is akin to a grants system.

But council General Manager Hein Basson is concerned the extra infrastructure will add to future maintenance budgets.

A press release announced the council was successful in winning funding through the program earlier today. The Glen Innes Severn shire has won funding for projects work just short of their cap of $1 million. They have about $100,000 left to spend.

A new bike and walking track between the western side of Glen Innes and Melling Park to King Edward Park and King George Oval will cost $120,194.

Council will also spend $100,000 to hire a drought support officer, who will help landholders navigate the bureaucracy of drought aid, organise rural community support programs and events. The full-time employee will work with GLENRAC, the Glen Innes Natural Resources Advisory Committee. 

Council will also spend $39,961 of federal money to hold a community drought relief event. A press release described the event as "a family-friendly, fun and educational drought community relief event, it hopes to draw locals and visitors from nearby towns and regional centres to Grey Street with stalls, service providers, food, drink and entertainment to provide an economic boost for the town."

The Drought Communities Program is designed to provide a short-term injection of cash into drought-effected communities. Originally announced in 2015, the program was expanded in 2018 to cover a total of 60 council areas. Each council is eligible to apply for funding for projects that fit within Federal eligibility criteria up to $1 million in total funding.

Barnaby Joyce MP for New England.

Barnaby Joyce MP for New England.

Council has previously been approved to spend $360,000 of federal dollars on re-sheeting rural roads, $50,000 for a water supply stand in Deepwater, and over $200,000 for toilets in Melling and Apex parks.

Member for New England Barnaby Joyce said the funding will increase spending in local businesses.

“This is critical funding that will help ease the burden on communities like Glen Innes, like Deepwater and other areas doing it tough during this drought,” Mr Joyce said.

General Manager Hein Basson.

General Manager Hein Basson.

Glen Innes Severn Council General Manager Hein Basson agreed that the funding would help "inject" money into the local area ("any spend within the community is a good spend - it's outside capital coming in," he said.)

But he warned any new infrastructure like the toilets would have to be maintained by future councils, and would be added to a maintenance backlog in excess of $20 million.

"(New infrastructure) does have an ongoing maintenance cost into the future," he said.

"it's wonderful that we can provide to fulfill the need (for more toilets). That's the problem with this sort of spend - how would council look if they knocked back the funding?

"We've got a $16 million backlog for roads. Do we have the capacity to build new assets and maintain them?

"The problem is if we look at all our asset classes - it's those smaller classes that add up to that $23-24 million backlog."

The scheme cannot be used to fund maintenance, only new infrastructure and other drought-related projects.