Drought Communities Program: Murray Bridge, Mid Murray, Coorong, Karoonda East Murray councils decide how to spend $4 million

There has not been much actual rain in the Murraylands and Mallee lately, but it is starting to rain money in parts.

The region's councils are each figuring out how to spend an extra $1 million in federal drought funding announced in November.

The cash has to be used to create jobs, grow the local economy and/or allow businesses, services and facilities to keep operating in drought-affected regions.

A previous funding round had a big impact at Karoonda, where it led the town's silos to be lit up at night and painted by day.

It also paid for the partial restoration of Mannum Institute, repairs to Cambrai's swimming pool, a new playground at Palmer and the sealing of Jarvis Road at Brinkley, among many other projects around the region.

What next?

Karoonda East Murray councillors met on Tuesday night to figure that out.

One of the ideas they endorsed was a concert, to be called Sounds by the Silos, which would feature "well-known" bands, market stalls and camping at the Karoonda oval.

Farmers would benefit from the hiring of a program officer to work with agricultural businesses during 2020, someone who could deliver workshops on financial sustainability, agronomy and mental health; and from efforts to stop sand drift.

Community groups would appreciate an upgrade of Karoonda Institute; new public toilets at Karoonda's cemetery, Pioneer Park and Wanbi; a new irrigation bore at Karoonda Golf Club, dependent on solar power; and solar panels and lighting at Wynarka Recreation Reserve.

If a space became available at Karoonda, it could be used for a new art and craft workshop or men's shed, resident Andrew Radloff said.

"A big need in the community is ... an area all community members can use to do a bit of woodworking, things like mosaicking, machinery and automotive restorations," he said.

"Can something like this be attractive to get people off rural properties, come into town and congregate?"

Councils needed to spend their drought funding on projects that people would participate in, he said.

You spend a huge amount of money; you don't want it to be forgotten in five years' time.

Andrew Radloff

"You spend a huge amount of money; you don't want it to be forgotten in five years' time," he said.

"Wherever this funding goes, you've got to think about the mileage you can get out of that."

Karoonda Area School students would co-design a playground on which any remaining funds could be spent; young people would also benefit from a refurbishment of Wynarka's playground, and its relocation closer to the old football clubrooms.

Wynarka's old football clubrooms were booked for 10-15 functions a year, recreation committee members Robin Hood and Jenny Gregory told the council, but more might use it if it were safer at night and more fun for children.

All projects will depend on federal government approval.

The millions made available to councils comes in addition to other federal funds intended to help farming households pay their bills, access financial counselling and invest in water-saving infrastructure.

Farmers can also apply for council rate rebates and access a business mentor program thanks to the state government.

How are the region's other councils spending their drought funds?

The Murray Bridge council will seal Hoadville Road at Brinkley at a cost of $1 million.

Mid Murray Council will decide in February how to spend its second $1 million grant, based in part on existing plans for each of its communities.

The Coorong council will decide next Tuesday how to spend $2 million: half by June 30, half by December 31.

Shortlisted projects for the first round include road-sealing in Tailem Bend; power upgrades at Lions Jubilee Park, Meningie; netball court re-surfacing at Tailem Bend, Peake and Tintinara; new or upgraded toilets at Meningie, Peake, Tintinara, Sherlock, Narrung, Salt Creek and Jabuk; an emergency water tank and sporting change rooms at Tintinara; a new dog park and community hub improvements at Coonalpyn; rooms for Tailem Bend Cricket Club; RV dump points; cemetary upgrades; restoration of Raukkan Gallery; tables and shelter at Salt Creek and Sherlock; footpath upgrades; community hall upgrades; and solar lighting.

Possible second-round projects include a playground and other works at Coonalpyn Caravan Park; a skate park at Meningie; restoration of Wadmore House at Meningie; a shelter for Tailem Bend's old steam engine; water supply projects at Peake and Coonalpyn; tree-planting; tourism signage.

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