Sydney activist groups are working to get food into an isolated NSW town after fire destroyed its only supermarket, bringing the drought-stricken community to its knees.
The inland town of Walgett in northern NSW suffered a devastating blow early this month when the IGA supermarket was gutted by fire.
The blaze left those living in Walgett and surrounds with no option but to travel at least 80km to Lightning Ridge for even the most basic supplies.
The blow came after the river systems near Walgett began drying up amid severe drought conditions.
Locals held an emergency meeting following the blaze and came up with the idea of a free bus service, to be run by the council, to nearby Coonamble.
But elderly, disabled and working people with families would struggle to make the journey, Sydney’s 24-7 Street Kitchen organiser Lanz Priestley said last week.
‘‘People that are working have enough of their time consumed by the necessity of supporting themselves,’’ he said.
‘‘We thought there has to be an easier way to do this.’’
Mr Priestley partnered his group with activist group Fighting In Resistance Equally before approaching supermarket giant Coles.
The organisations agreed Walgett residents could use Coles’ online shopping platform to order groceries from the store at Narrabri, some 185km away.
A rented truck will then cart the goods into Walgett where residents can collect the supplies or community groups can deliver them to homes. Residents who can’t use the online system will be able to order over the phone.
It was a similar approach to the way drought-afflicted interior towns had been forced to maintain their water supply, Mr Priestley said.
‘‘This is not about pushing the locals out and Coles in, this is about a response to a critical situation,’’ he said.
Earlier this month, Western NSW Minister Adam Marshall said having to travel 80km for groceries may as well be 800 or 8000km because many did not have the means to make the journey.
‘‘The township of Walgett is already on its knees,’’ he told NSW State Parliament last week.
‘‘The government will stand by that community and will work ... to make sure that no-one in Walgett is adversely affected by this extra blow it received.’’
The town has had to rely on bore water for almost 18 months after its reservoirs reached critically low levels.
Mr Priestley hopes the system, which will only rely on a small delivery fee to cover the truck and driver rental, will become self-sufficient until the supermarket is replaced in town.