Sweet rewards flow from fish disaster

Sweet rewards flow from fish disaster


Opinion
Central Darling Shire Council administrator, Bob Stewart, and general manager, Greg Hill, at the Wilcannia water treatment plant which will be upgraded.

Central Darling Shire Council administrator, Bob Stewart, and general manager, Greg Hill, at the Wilcannia water treatment plant which will be upgraded.

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Communities in the Central darling region are now benefiting from new government funding.

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CENTRAL Darling shire and areas of the Unincorporated Western Division have begun to receive some positives from the disastrous fish kills in the Darling River and Menindee Lakes in recent months.

General manager of the Central Darling Shire council, Greg Hill, said communities within the affected regions felt they had been left out to dry.

However, both the federal and state governments had weighed-in, funding some much needed projects and infrastructure upgrades.

"There had been a lot of negative press around the fish kills in the region, especially at Menindee Lakes, but to be honest this has worked in our favour," Mr Hill said.

"The region has gained a fair bit out of that negative publicity."

After the second fish kill in February, some Menindee locals with Mr Hill developed a five-point plan to leverage something positive from the disaster.

"The disaster attracted many politicians and we didn't miss the opportunity of placing our plan, which had been endorsed by the former council administrator, under their noses," Mr Hill said.

The result attracted millions of new dollars flowing into the local areas.

"Out of the plan we received $25 million to seal 70 kilometres of our Pooncarie Road, we have been promised a fish hatchery when water returns at a cost of $5m, and potentially, a new mobile phone tower for Menindee," Mr Hill said.

A package amounting to $200,000 has been promised for tourism promotion of Menindee when the water gets back and the Tourist Association gained $30,000 for upgrading its Tourist Information Centre and helping out with promotion of the Menindee Dancing on the Darling promotion.

"Potentially we might gain a National Parks ranger to actually work full-time through the Tourist Information Centre at Menindee," Mr Hill said.

"We now have $6m for the upgrade of the water treatment plants at Wilcannia, and Ivanhoe as well.

"This has come about from the past couple of years of planning water strategies."

Another big win for the region was the $7m for the construction of the Baaka Indigenous Culture Centre at Wilcannia.

"Both the state and federal governments have committed $3.5m each to the project," Mr Hill said.

"It will be built on the old Knox and Downs store site, which burnt down about 15 years ago and has been boarded up ever since.

"The land reverted back to council some time ago, and a local committee was formed five years ago, so the building will be demolished to make way for the cultural centre redevelopment."

The federal government's $1m drought relief funding went towards an additional bore for Wilcannia's potable water supply and communities for free social events.

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