responding: The Hon. Jaala Pulford MLC

Responding to drought

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Quambatook is on the Avoca River which has had no flow since 2011. I read with interest of a number of drought affected towns in our vicinity and realise we all suffer similar problems. What avenues are open to us to at least have our weir pool maintained which would assist our community?
Ken Espagne · 8 months ago

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The township of Donald, located in the Buloke Shire, in the Wimmera/Mallee Region of Victoria. It is a close-knit community of 1700 people that services a wider region. The major economy of the area is agriculture, with local farms producing cereals, grains, legumes & livestock. The area has recently experienced two severe droughts, placing extreme financial pressure on both farming families and the service providers within the township. Community facilities are relied heavily on by rural communities providing opportunities for sport, recreation, social, wellbeing and cultural activities. Like many rural towns the existing infrastructure in Donald is aging (early 1970’s), and are not fit for modern purposes. The existing major sports and recreational building, is currently utilised for football, netball, hockey, cricket, squash, indoor tennis, badminton, school physical education classes and basketball, it requires significant capital works to upgrade the building to meet current occupational health regulations and standards. With the existing support of both the Buloke Shire and the community, it is proposed that the existing Stadium be renovated and expanded to create a multi-purpose community center, which would form the first stage of developing an integrated community precinct, aiming to allow the town to provide economic diversification and enhancing the livability of the town and surrounding region. In addition to providing job opportunities to the local community through employment of local suppliers and services and increased economic activity; the completed building will provide state of the art, sustainable facilities to existing users. Providing the community a space to accommodate, support and encourage; major events, conferences, training camps, P & A Show society, gymnasium, women’s fitness, indoor netball, indoor cricket the arts, men’s shed, community clubs. The integrated design has been undertaken to ensure that the facility is both family and female friendly, to encourage increased participation in community activities, and ensure the sustainability, health and wellbeing of the community into the future. The facility and associated works has been costed at $2.5M including contingency, with a completed funding package and permitting completed by CYE16, the engineering and construction works would be completed during 2017. Funding is being sought from community, local, state, and federal governments. Funding contributions are also being sourced from private donors, sporting, state bodies and community organizations. The Donald community will dig deep to provided a half a million dollars in financial commitments and ‘in-kind’ support. A robust business case and feasibility study is scheduled for completion in February 2016.

Drought Project for South West Wimmera - 1/ Extend the State Water Grid by constructing a pipeline from Rocklands Reservoir to South West Wimmera with capacity to supply: a/ Drought proofed potable water for Edenhope, Harrow and Apsley townships b/ Drought proofed rural water supply for other industries, including farming and value added rural industries c/ Drought proofed Environmental/Recreational water supply for Lake Wallace (once off 2,000ML allocation, then up to 1,000ML available for top up, depending on seasonality. Lake Wallace is a significant environmental waterway in Western Victoria which should be considered for an environmental water flow during the drought conditions that have plagued the region for the last two decades. (The same holds true for recreation.) There are no recreational or environmental water allocations in the region, and with climate change, this has a major effect on the natural environment, the mental health of the people who live here, and exacerbates the effects of the drought on this wonderful part of Victoria. Historically the West Wimmera was considered self-sufficient in water and had not been included in the Wimmera Mallee pipeline grid. However, conditions have changed. Without secured water supplies our towns are not appealing places to turn to during droughts, and particularly during drought induced bushfires. Our volunteers are becoming exhausted, local families are travelling over two hours for recreation, often into South Australia and inevitably, spend money, and retire. Retirees with cash and assets are looking to retire to water, and until recently that place was Edenhope on Lake Wallace. Our shire has the fastest declining population in the state and without intervention and with ongoing drought conditions, this will continue. But not if we act now to secure the future of the region. We need the water to create a sustainable solution which includes, an oasis to protect critically endangered birds, mental health benefits for people through camping, fishing, swimming, sailing and boating, sustaining the rural population, re-invigorating businesses to re-invest locally, supporting economic growth, bringing tourists (including from the cities), increasing population to drought proof the community, and returning hope to the bush.