Government assistance required to keep regional Australia going during drought

2020 will be a critical year for the economy of not only the Dubbo Region, but all of Western NSW.

This drought, which continues to rage, is certainly a challenge to Council.  Rightfully most  people are very concerned about our water prospects in the long term and thankfully the majority of people are following both the State Government and Council’s expert water engineers advice and cutting back on as much water use as possible.

We know that it will rain again one day.  We know that our country is used to going from droughts one year to floods the next.  With that being the case I am thrilled to learn that the State and Federal Governments may be actually getting serious about building more water infrastructure like dams and water storage facilities.  The fact that it’s been over 50 years since a significant dam was built in this part of the state shows that governments of both political persuasions have failed to invest in proper regional infrastructure.

While we know that this drought will end, and we know that government needs to invest in water, little has been said about the need for economic recovery assistance to regional areas once the drought is over.

Take for example our small businesses.  Right now some have their backs to the wall with their financial outlook looking just as bad as a lot of farmers and primary producers.  Just like farmers, these businesses will need a hand up to get back on track.

Likewise local councils will need significant financial help during the recovery.  The hit to the bottom line Council’s water business has incurred because of the reduction of the use of water is significant.  Clearly we are going to need state assistance in getting the water budget in the black.

Added to that, our parks and gardens are going to need millions of dollars for replanting and repair.  Council will certainly need to reseed new lawns and turf, trees will need to be replaced and a lot of irrigation systems that haven’t been used quickly breaks down when not in use for long periods of time.

The bottom line is, local ratepayers simply cannot afford to fund the recovery themselves so we need the State Government to start financial planning now in order to assist local councils.

We also must take into account the damage to economic confidence that the drought has had on our small businesses and our region in general.  The reality is a lot of people now think of regional NSW as being without water and a financial risk.  We locals know that’s not true, that Sydney too has water issues, but perception can sometimes be worse than reality.  It is clear that the three levels of government will need to get together and properly fund the promotion of regional development as a way to get people confident in non-metropolitan Australia.  I reckon a much larger Evocities-style initiative is something that must be considered.

There is no doubt that we will get over this drought.  But the time it takes to recover will be largely determined by the will of government to assist in that recovery.

Last Edited: 18 Feb 2020

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