FUNDING FOR THE FUTURE: Minister for Drought David Littleproud said better roads will help farmers once drought breaks. Picture: Kym Smith.
FUNDING FOR THE FUTURE: Minister for Drought David Littleproud said better roads will help farmers once drought breaks. Picture: Kym Smith.

$1.5M funding boost to Southern Downs economy

AN extra $1.5 million in federal funding will pave the way for future farming ventures on the Southern Downs, according to Member for Maranoa David Littleproud.

The Roads to Recovery program aims to deliver smoother, more reliable roads across the region in hopes that they will help the agricultural sector “hit the ground running” once drought breaks.

“When it rains they’ll have more confidence in local roads to move livestock to saleyards or heavy goods to customers,” Mr Littleproud said.

The benefits of road upgrades may come too little too late for producers who question whether business will be able to weather the drought.

“Better condition roads are great, but you’ve got to have the stock there to shift,” said cattle producer Alan Payne.

“There’s a lot of places that have completely destocked, and I mean core breeder herds that are just gone forever.

“Grading the roads will be an advantage in the long term, but in the short term it would benefit us far more to have other stuff like stock fodder.”

Additional roadworks will, however, create much-needed employment for tradespeople throughout the region.

The program is “designed to stimulate local economic activity,” according to Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, Andrew Gee.

“This additional funding will make a real difference to the council area and be a very welcome and timely boost,” Mr Gee said.

Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said she was glad the funding would mean more work for the local economy for the employment of contractors, council staff and the use of local products for construction.

“Providing liveability and amenity to our smaller towns and villages are the main motivations behind the funding,” she said.

The additional $1.5M adds to the pre-existing R2R grant of $1.3M, through which SDRC has allocated funds to widening Wheatvale Rd and Forest Plain Rd, rehabilitating Donnellys Castle Rd and sealing Village St in Glen Aplin.

The community expressed concern over roadworks at the meeting with councillors this week, claiming it “seemed like a stupid waste of water” and asking councillors why “we are on water restrictions when you’re wasting money on dirt.”

SDRC water manager Seren McKenzie assured residents only a minimal amount of recycled or raw water would be used on roadworks to combat dust complaints.

Where the extra funds will be spent is yet to be determined.