Wakool and Rochester receive funds to ease water recovery pain

By Country News

Two communities have received almost $2.5million to help them recover from the effects of water recovery under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Both Rochester and Wakool received the funding under the Federal Government’s Murray-Darling Basin Economic Development Program.

Murray-Darling Basin Authority community profiles released in June last year revealed the two communities lost a significant amount of jobs and water as a result of water recovery under the basin plan.

‘‘Five of the six communities (profiled in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District) had similar levels of employment change in response to the basin plan, except for one community in Rochester — the employment effects are almost double due to further social and economic pressures,’’ MDBA chief executive Phillip Glyde said at the time.

According to the community profiles, Rochester lost a total of 311 agricultural jobs throughout the period examined — almost one-third of the agricultural workforce — which equates to one-in-five jobs in the workforce overall.

Wakool, west of Deniliquin in NSW, lost almost half its population and more than 61 per cent of its agricultural workforce.

Wakool had a 34.5 per cent reduction in the water available for production, the worst hit in the region, with most other communities losing between five per cent and 20 per cent of water for production as a result of water recovery.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said projects had been put forward by locals ‘‘who know what’s needed for their towns’’.

The Rochester Chamber of Commerce and Industry received $500000 to facilitate a number of tourism opportunities, including leasing a store to sell local produce, purchasing a mobile sign, lighting up existing art murals and painting an additional one, and setting up a small sports museum.

Campaspe Shire Council received $500000 towards revitalising the Rochester Riverside Holiday Park and $448000 towards the Rochester Revitalisation project, which will build upon existing street art themes to consolidate and develop tourism opportunity benefits, including through an augmented reality tour based on smart phone technology.

The Wakool Community Progress Association has received $39310 to complete a silo art project in the town, while the Western Murray Land Improvement Group received $500000 for agri-system development and an additional $500000 for knowledge, innovation and investment, education, tourism development and regional technology integration.

Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum announced the Rochester project last week.

‘‘Rochester has done a great job putting these tourism-focused projects forward and I look forward to seeing the economic boost which will come from these projects for years to come,’’ Mr Drum said.