Drought funding delays

Article image - Drought funding delays Broken Beaury Creek Bridge, Tenterfield Shire, allocated drought funding.

Tenterfield Shire Council, New South Wales, signed a $1 million contract for drought funding initiatives on 20 December 2018 after a protracted application process that Mayor, Peter Petty has called extremely frustrating.

In addition to the long wait for the promised funding the conditions under which funding applications were eligible have changed several times during the application period.

“Although conditions have eased around Tenterfield, they are still bad in the western areas of our shire, with the rural communities of Mingoola and Torrington continuing to suffer severe water and stock feed issues,” the Mayor said.

Council initially discussed the grant allocations in August 2018. 

A meeting with Commonwealth Co-ordinator General for Drought, Stephen Day,  followed on 21 September to further develop the priorities. 

Council made submission for the following items:

$50,000 - pastoral care for villages/places with a Family Fun Day – BBQ, support, information, hay and water provided

$25,000 – rodeo (17 November 2018)

$50,000 – Tenterfield Show

$50,000 – “Why Leave Town” gift vouchers for Salvation Army to distribute

$200,000 – de-silting of private dams (animal welfare) – employing localcontractors

$100,000 – labour relief for farmers (feeding stock, mental health support)

$495,000 – upgrading or temporary repairs of load limited timber bridges

$5,000 – assistance to small business

$25,000 – provision and cartage of potable water (through Salvation Army).

Total $1,000,000.

Council was then notified that the guidelines had been amended and “Gift Cards” would no longer be funded as the Federal Government had plans for an alternative to this option for all drought affected councils.

The application was amended and resubmitted, reallocating the $50,000 to upgrading or temporary repairs to load limited timber bridges.

In November a further change to the guidelines resulted in the removal of the de-silting of private dams, labour relief for farmers and assistance to small business.

The entire application was then moved to DRAFT status and suspended pending resubmission of revised eligible projects.

Council met again on 16 November to consider the allocation of outstanding funding. 

Serious concern was expressed regarding the removal of an allocation for de-silting of private dams due to the increasing risk and occurrences of animals becoming stuck. 

It was requested that the submission again include this allocation and the allocation for the Tenterfield Show. 

However, Council agreed that if the de-silting of private dams, labour relief and assistance to small businesses were deemed unlikely to proceed, the funds would also be reallocated to the upgrading or temporary repairs of load limited bridges.

Councillors also expressed extreme disappointment and concern regarding the unavailability of a Drought Co-ordinator for Tenterfield which was promised by Coordinator-General Day to assist Tenterfield Shire primary producers to complete paperwork and provide support.

A revised application was submitted on 20 November including: 

  • $850,000 - upgrading or temporary repairs of load limited timber bridges;
  • $50,000 - community drought support events
  • $50,000 - Tenterfield Show
  • $25,000 - Tenterfield Rodeo drought relief activity
  • $25,000 - provision and delivery of potable water.

“Council understands that many members of the community feel disenfranchised by the allocation of the bulk of the $1million to upgrade load limited timber bridges across our Shire,” said Mayor Petty.

“I can understand this sentiment, however the bridge load limits are causing serious heartache for our rural communities with the problems and additional costs associated in cartage of stock, stock feed and water to their properties.

“Removal of the current load limits on 16 of our timber bridges will free up our transport network and benefit our whole community by allowing businesses to operate as normal.”

As well as imposing load and speed limits on the bridges, Council has placed temporary steel structures over three creek crossings including at the site of an already failed bridge in an effort to keep them open and avoid catastrophic failure
of the structures.

“Despite the delays, Tenterfield Shire is extremely grateful to the Federal Government for the allocation of this $1million and I wish to thank our Local Member, The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, for his assistance”.