It’s a common mantra that many remote councils have – not enough water and not enough power, but at Cobar it’s taken to an extreme end.
Not only is the town at the end of the power line that runs up from Wellington, and so it has no more capacity, it also loses 50 per cent of its water through evaporation, because of the long journey its water supply makes from the Macquarie river through a channel (Albert Priest), a weir (Bogan) and then finally through a 130km pipeline.
Also consider that the town is now without an air service after Rex Airlines pulled out last year, and you get the feeling the town is struggling to keep all its services running and infrastructure up to date with 21st century standards.
Peter Vlatko, Cobar Shire Council’s general manager, says that water and electricity were the two big issues hanging over the future of Cobar. Mr Vlatko said a researcher had found 50 per cent of the town’s allotted water evaporates by the time it finishes its long journey to the Cobar Water Board, before it is delivered to Cobar’s mines and residents.
The town has a licence for 1800 megalitres a year, but hardly half of that ever reaches town. “Yet the Government doesn’t see that as a big problem,” Mr Vlatko said.
He said power was also the big issue stopping Cobar from progressing.
“We are at the end of the line so that means there is no more capacity for us. We’ve been told if we want more power we have to go to solar or some other source,” Mr Vlatko said.
Roads were also a major issue in the huge shire, with now drought bringing an unlikely problem - trucks ‘bogged’ in the dry bulldust.
The council has been forced to say only light vehicles are allowed to travel on some roads as council cannot does not have enough water to maintain roads in the dry.
The town was also hit with bad news last December when Rex Airlines ended its Cobar plane service. That was following one of the mining companies pulling out its subsidy of the service.
Mr Vlatko said Cobar had since joined forces with Bourke and Walgett to try and get airline services restored. He said he was hopeful the NSW Government would listen to the town’s plight on air services. The Rex air services was running full before closure, he said. “The decision to withdraw the service has left us almost completely isolated,” he said.
The other issues were education and medical - getting doctors, teachers and medical staff to Cobar. “Unfortunately most professionals think their head office is Dubbo, so by the time they’ve travelled to Cobar they think they’ve already worked three hours, so they don’t stay as long,” he said.