Namoi Unlimited will lead a delegation of businesses and leaders to Canberra this month to share first-hand the impact of this drought on rural communities, and opportunities for working together. The trip is designed to advocate for programs and incentives to help businesses and communities.
Chairperson of Namoi Unlimited and Mayor of Gunnedah Shire Council Jamie Chaffey said, “this drought and the natural disaster surrounding it continues to impact the region.
“While we are all wishing for rain, the best predictions indicate that there will be no relief in the near future, and we know recovery will take a long time.
”The impact of this drought is very broad. It’s impacting small business owners, large employers, contractors, employees, schools – towns and the entire region.
“As leaders, we feel we need to advocate strongly for our communities, our businesses and the region. Every day we hear stories of heartache and hope, it’s time these stories were shared and heard in our nation’s capital.”
Past advocacy trips to Canberra by Naomi Unlimited and its Councils have focused on a wide range of issues and priorities. This year the five Mayors unanimously agreed that a delegation of businesses and leaders could contribute to the national conversation about drought and its impacts, and call for the introduction of more stimulus measures to maintain employment and people in communities across the New England North West of NSW.
“Our concerns are that anecdotally, people are leaving the region to find casual or more permanent employment. They are driving substantial distances for work, with or without family; we see our employment and population pressures are not being addressed.
“Both the State and the Commonwealth are investing substantial amounts in drought funding, billions of dollars have been spent however; some of it seems to be missing the mark for our communities,” said Councillor Chaffey.
Recently the Commonwealth Government announced additional funding for drought. All five Councils have already received $1million from the Drought Communities Program, and despite calls for a second round of funding from the group, they are not currently eligible.
Namoi Unlimited recently wrote to the Prime Minister and the Premier of NSW articulating some of the ideas to help alleviate some of the stresses caused by this drought.
For the Commonwealth, Namoi Unlimited put forward ideas such as:
- Extending the eligibility criteria for Drought Loans to small business
- Funding for pre-schools to provide social and mental health resources for children
- An extension to the On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme beyondthe initial three-year investment (2020-2021) and an increase in rebates.It also supported recommendations in a report to the Commonwealth Government on possible changes to the Farm Household Assistance Program.
Councillor Chaffey said “we think there is a better way for our region, with all good intentions and the billions that have been invested, there is more that needs to be done.
“It’s critical that all three tiers of government continue to communicate and work together, so we hear fewer stories of children missing out on school excursions, farmers battling depression and concerns about stock theft, water theft and fuel theft.”
Namoi Unlimited has also written to the NSW Premier suggesting several state-based initiatives, including:
- Training for locals to upskill for casual employment opportunities
- Funding for a regional tourism campaign to encourage people to visit the Namoiregion.
- Funding to open, maintain, secure and clean public amenities to provide 24/7 andFREE access to shower and washing facilities
- An increase in NSW Police numbers to address the increases in rural crime
- Provide resources to Local Land Services to commence programs on training, nutritionand recovery.The calls by Namoi Unlimited have been prepared from consultations with businesses, local communities and Councils.“It is remarkable that during these testing times, people in the Namoi region have united and are thinking of meaningful ways to help each other through this awful drought,” said Councillor Chaffey.”
Each council will nominate a representative from their shire to champion community concerns in Canberra. The names of those taking part will be announced soon.
Members of the public can share their ideas on drought support, community resilience and recovery by sharing their story on social media under the hashtag #mydroughtstory or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.