Communities throughout the Murray-Darling Basin, including Gwydir in the New England, can now apply for a share of more than $34 million in grants to stimulate job growth, boost economic development and maintain healthy river systems.
Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt, said the third round of the Economic Development Program (EDP), which opened this week, was about putting people, jobs and communities at the heart of the Basin Plan.
“Our government has allocated $34 million towards the largest round of the EDP to date, offering grants of between $50,000 and $1 million to fund projects in 38 eligible community areas,” Minister Pitt said.
Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, said the program will allow Basin communities in the Gwydir region determine what best works for them.
“This program recognises that communities know how best to tackle the challenges they face, and what kinds of economic activity would support people in their own communities,” Mr Joyce said.
Close to $39 million of funding has already been delivered under Rounds 1 and 2 of the program for a range of activities - from thermal hot springs upgrades to business mentoring, ecotourism trails, agritourism projects and aerodrome developments.
EDP Round 3 grant applications will close on 12 April 2021. Visit the Community Grants Hub to find out if your community is eligible or for information on how to apply.
Additionally, community organisations can also apply for grants to deliver practical on-ground projects that improve the health of rivers and wetlands in the Murray–Darling Basin.
The first round for the Healthy Rivers Program will offer $6 million in grants of between $5,000 and $50,000 to assist Basin communities to maintain the health of their local streams and wetlands.
“That could be installing grazing exclusion fences along riverbanks or measures to control invasive plants and animals in wetlands,” Mr Joyce said.
Applications for the Healthy Rivers Program are open now and close on 31 March 2021. For more information on how to apply, visit the Community Grants Hub.
The Federal Government has also announced the Water Efficiency Program (WEP) will close and be replaced by a water saving program that does not impact farmers’ water entitlements.
“My priority is to put communities back at the heart of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and this is another step in that process,” Minister Pitt said.
“The WEP has not worked as it was expected to, recovering just 0.2GL since 2019 - that’s 0.04% of the 450GL target of additional water for river health outcomes that our government is committed to recovering.
“We are closing the program and replacing it with a new approach that will focus the more than $1.5 billion available in the Water for the Environment Special Account on securing water by improving the efficiency of off-farm irrigation infrastructure.”