JOBS will be secured in the drought-affected Central West thanks to $1 million given to Forbes Shire Council and $450,000 for Parkes Shire Council through the Drought Communities Program (DCP), Deputy Prime Minister and Riverina MP Michael McCormack has said.

Mr McCormack said Forbes Shire Council would use its grant for several job-creating projects designed to keep work flowing in the town, which is being impacted by the drought.

Projects include:

• Upgrading the Lake Forbes precinct, including sports facilities and parks adjacent to the lake;

• Implementing the Forbes Commercial Precinct Master Plan to activate Forbes’ iconic main street;

• Developing master plans for a new aquatic centre and multi-purpose equestrian facility at Forbes;

• Upgrading halls and sports grounds at rural localities across the Shire, including the communities of Ootha, Warroo, Bedgerabong, Corinella, Wirrinya, Garema and Calarie;

• Installation of a new stand pipe at the Council depot to allow easy access to free drinking water for rural residents.

Mr McCormack said Parkes’ funding would provide free domestic and stock water for rural residents, who comprise 31.5 per cent of the Shire’s population, and upgrading stand pipe infrastructure to provide more efficient, accessible water availability. Parkes Shire will also employ a drought response officer to help co-ordinate drought relief support for those in need across the Shire.

“These projects in Forbes and Parkes will support local tradies where work has fallen off because of the drought and make free water available to many whose livelihoods and everyday lives suffer from a lack of water,” Mr McCormack said.

“I congratulate the two councils on working hard to develop these job-creating projects.”

The Minister for Regional Services, Local Government and Decentralisation, Senator Bridget McKenzie, said The Nationals understood the toll the drought was having on regional communities because we live there, too.

“The $81 million Drought Communities Program is targeted at projects which stimulate local economy spending by using local resources, businesses, suppliers and workers,” Senator McKenzie said.

“With regional Australia accounting for about two thirds of our exports and employing hundreds of thousands of Australians, supporting these communities now is a small price to pay to ensure we keep the economy growing.”

The Drought Communities Program supports communities in the most drought-affected regions of Australia and builds on more drought support measures worth more than $7 billion.

In August, the program was extended to provide support of $1 million to 60 eligible councils and in October a further 21 councils were added to reach even more communities suffering through drought.

Shane Manning