Mayor Bob Kirk says he doesn't see much point in another parliamentary inquiry into drought impacts.
But for what it's worth, he has pushed the need for the State Government to pump money into infrastructure development and renewal. In a dig at recent decisions, he has also highlighted the fact that Goulburn Mulwaree recently missed out on State funding for two major water projects.
The mayor has lodged a submission on the Legislative Assembly's Inquiry into Support for Drought Affected Communities in NSW. It will cover business, economies and communities and examine population loss, responses of financial companies to drought, transition and recovery, preparedness, temporary relief from State taxes, capacity and coordination of town water supplies and recycling opportunities, among other aspects.
In his submission Cr Kirk says the area is not badly affected by drought at this stage but with a long, dry summer forecast, the community is "bracing for significant impacts."
He wrote that the council's "courageous decision" to build the 81km Highland Source pipeline had given Goulburn considerable business confidence.
"However if the drought does affect us badly over the next few months that confidence will be rapidly eroded as the community stop spending," he stated.
"This council believes it is appropriate the State Government continue to provide financial stimulus into regional NSW in the form of infrastructure development and renewal. This can be through the grants program on infrastructure that really makes a difference on long-term benefits."
He pointed out that the government had recently rejected the council's application for $1.25 million of the $5m cost to upgrade Goulburn's water treatment plant. Under the same Safe and Secure Water Water Program, its $2.25m application for the city's $9m water re-use scheme, pumping highly treated effluent onto parks and sporting fields, also missed out. The council is funding both projects itself.
"...There seems to be a reluctance within (the State's) bureaucracy to support water recycling projects. The government, in our opinion, should be supporting these initiatives to ensure the wise use of recycled water resources," he wrote.
The Mayor also called for a change during drought to the population-based criteria that applied to the government's Financial Assistance Grants. Currently this criteria favoured metro areas but Cr Kirk said a relaxation would benefit rural and regional communities.
While the mayor praised the State's recent consideration of a $125 million rate relief package for local government to help struggling farmers and businesses during dry times, he also urged more action on weed management.
"Weeds will come up with all the introduced feed we have coming in from everywhere else and it may bring problems we've never had before," Cr Kirk told The Post.
"Cockies will not be in a position to deal with them. We issue orders to property owners and take them to court and then the court just laughs at us. It defeats the purpose."
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In his submission, Cr Kirk said the government's biosecurity legislation didn't provide enough incentives to land owners or authority to councils to control weeds. He urged an overhaul of the laws.
Asked for his thoughts on the inquiry, Cr Kirk said it was "ridiculous."
"Seriously, do we need to put together another submission and send it to Sydney for someone to collate all of them for the Minister to come up with a conclusion? This is just creating work," he said.
Submissions on the inquiry are due on November 29.
More information can be found at this link.
Meantime, council general manager Warwick Bennett said he was yet to assess what projects the organisation could apply for under the federal government's drought support measures announced this week.
The Building Better Regions Fund will have a targeted round of $200 million for drought-affected communities and more money will be available for councils under the Roads to Recovery program.
He said most councils in the Canberra Joint Regional Organisation, save for Bega Valley, had not qualified for drought funding under previous federal criteria.
"We have made representation to federal and state governments that we are also affected by drought and that we should be included," he said.
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