A new report into social and economic impacts of drought funding shows investment into resilience boosting activities is money extremely well spent.
The economic development organisation representing the seven local government areas of central west Queensland (RAPAD) commissioned a review of the Queensland Government funded Community Drought Support Package.
“We knew anecdotally that this program’s impact reverberated throughout all our communities and their economies. This report confirms the package wasof immense benefit to the region, socially and economically,” RAPAD CEO David Arnold said.
The package was introduced to improve the resilience of drought-affected Queenslanders by funding community events and initiatives that support local economies and help build and retain community resilience in the face of extreme hardship.
Just over half a million dollars ($525,000) was invested in 114 events.
Independent reviewer and economist with Hall Chadwick QLD, Andrew Perkins says every dollar spent by the Palaszczuk government was magnified in value by more than 130% through the economy.
“For every dollar of funding there is a direct benefit of $1.31 to the region in the form of local purchasing, paid local labour and a surplus either to be retained or donated to a selected charity,” Mr Perkins said.
The report also found, every dollar of community drought support funding was matched with $1.07 worth of unpaid community volunteer labour.
Beyond the highly successful impact on local economies, the support package played a monumental role in generating and ensuring continuity of social interaction.
Gerry Roberts of GR Consulting was involved with the review and interviewed people about the impact of the funding program.
The clear message he heard was the funding meant regular community events, which are often a key economic as well as social event, could continue to be held under conditions when businesses and people were facing financial hardship and otherwise would have had to be cancelled.
“The funding meant the show could go on, the race day was held, entry to the rodeo was free so the community could afford to gather and talk rather than isolate themselves because they had no income,” Dr Roberts said.
“People facing the hardship of drought could talk about it with each other and in doing so support each other, and that is how communities develop more care towards each other which translates to better resilience,” he said.
Apart from rain, contemporary grass roots research has found the best salve for communities suffering through drought is for the local economies to be supported and opportunities for social interaction retained.
The Beyond the Dust report delivered by the Western Queensland Drought Appeal into the Impact of Drought in the Central West on Town Businesses provided six policy recommendations including;
- supporting community networks by “supporting events that foster community networks and build social resilience”,
- developing “diverse and innovative economies by encouraging government and charity groups to invest locally”.
“The Community Drought Support Package has delivered in economic terms and has boosted the health and well-being of the Central West community. As the region enters its sixth year of drought the resilience of the community and economy couldn’t be more important,” Mr Arnold said.
Disappointingly RAPAD understands there is no intention by the State Government to continue the package, despite the clear benefit identified in the report.