Mayor Cr Nelson meeting with Andrew Broad MP
Mayor Cr Nelson meeting with Andrew Broad MP

Hindmarsh Shire Council and community are devastated after being overlooked for $1.5m in critical Drought Communities Program funding.

On Monday 23rd May Fiona Nash, Minister for Regional Development, and Andrew Broad, Member for Mallee, announced that West Wimmera, Yarriambiack and Buloke Shire Councils had been approved Declared Councils under the Drought Communities Program (DCP), entitling each of them to $1.5m in funding.

Hindmarsh Shire Council Mayor Debra Nelson said, “We are very pleased for our regional partners, but make the point that it is incomprehensible to Council and our community that our immediate neighbours have been approved a Declared Council, but Hindmarsh Shire Council, sandwiched between West Wimmera Shire and Yarriambiack Shire, has not.”

Cr Nelson went on to say, “Rainfall data for our region clearly shows that Hindmarsh Shire has experienced either similar or even less rain than other Wimmera municipalities over the last one, two, three and four years. Again, we state that we believe the communities that have received this declaration are very deserving, but cannot understand how the Shire of Hindmarsh has been overlooked.”

Cr Nelson added, “The reaction from our community this week has been very strong, with many describing this decision as a ‘kick in the guts’.”

“Economic conditions within our Shire are extremely difficult at this time. In response to the drought conditions, Council aspires to undertake a number of projects to create jobs and economic activity which have been strongly championed by our community, but is simply not in a financial position to fund these initiatives.”

An important aspect of the Drought Communities Program is that it is 100 percent project funding and does not require a financial contribution from Council. Through extensive community consultation, Hindmarsh Shire Council has developed a significant number of economically transformational projects that it would like to undertake, but is unable to fund the matching contribution required in grant programs.

“This is the importance of the Drought Communities Program in rebooting the economics of our area – it is funding not requiring a contribution from Council and can be spent on the community’s priorities,” Cr Nelson said.

“We have written to Minister Nash requesting that this matter be redressed immediately. We are also seeking to understand the governance of this grant program, in particular what the criteria is for a council to be approved a Declared Council,” she said.

“Again, we are not arguing against the well-deserved funding allocations to our neighbours from the Drought Communities Program. What we are, however, arguing for is the fact that our rainfall has been at least as poor as our neighbours’, and in one case substantially worse,” Cr Nelson concluded.