Business

Dining out on drought funding

Southern Downs Regional Council chambers
Southern Downs Regional Council chambers

FOLLOWING the revelation last week that drought funding money had been used for a Warwick Christmas dinner, Southern Downs Regional Council proceeded with a similar dinner in Stanthorpe on Thursday night.

The free dinners were paid for by a $70,000 allocation from the State Government's Community Drought Support program.

Total costs for venue hire, meals and entertainment for the two dinners held in Stanthorpe and Warwick was $14,664. The number of attendees totalled about 190, with a cost per participant of about $77.

The lid was lifted last week in the council meeting when Deputy Mayor Ross Bartley brought the meetings to a head. The Queensland College of Wine Tourism hosted the Stanthorpe Rural Christmas Dinner. It was an invite-only event that featured a free two-course meal and entertainment.

Many were outraged that money for drought-affected rural farmers was going to pay for an exclusive dinner and it wasn't even serving as a fundraiser.

More than 80 people attended the dinner at QCWT, with attendees representing a range of banks, accountants and agri-businesses.

The grant application form for the Community Drought Support Package states the purpose of the grant as "being administered under the CDSP and is to provide support initiatives to strengthen the resilience of drought-affected Queenslanders by revitalising existing community support mechanisms within defined geographic regions".

Mayor Peter Blundell said it was part of a range of initiatives funded with drought money.

"The dinners were a small part of the very successful delivery of community resilience measures provided through $70,000 worth of State Government funding, which has included projects such as the Community Care Cards, an Ag Expo at the Warwick Saleyards, a Feast of Flavours dinner showcasing local produce and mental health workshops, all delivered under the community drought support funding," he said.

Councillors Vic Pennisi and Cameron Gow said they were unaware of the dinner until it was brought to the attention of Cr Bartley and consequently the entire council.

"I'm the portfolio holder for agriculture and I was not invited until the day before," Cr Gow said.

"I chose not to attend. I've lived through droughts and hail storms and they're no bloody fun. I've almost been sent broke," he said.

Cr Pennisi said councillors were not informed of the dinner until it was too late to do anything about it.

"I guess in this case the question is, if there is a more needy community than ours and whether the dinner could have been used as a fundraiser (as suggested by the deputy mayor) for those whose need may be considered greater than ours?" Cr Pennisi said.

Cr Blundell explained how the invitations worked.

"Invitations were extended to banking institutions, accountants, stock agents, auctioneers and rural agricultural businesses, inviting them each to bring up to 10 people, with a mixture of staff and customers, and it was the prerogative of these individual businesses to decide whom they invited," he said.

Cr Blundell said the dinner acted as a business information session.

"It should be understood that the Rural Christmas Dinners held in the Southern Downs have informed bank managers, agents and rural service providers, as well as producers, of the signs to look for in those that need assistance, in who can provide that assistance and how to get in touch with the providers," he said.

"I am disappointed, however, with the level of criticism aimed at council over these rural dinners and the great work of council's Community Services team, which has been undermined by ill-considered and misleading remarks and particularly more so knowing that similar events and activities in other regions delivered under the same funding have attracted very positive press.

"We recognised that drought and natural disasters put a lot of strain on the agricultural industry and these dinners were intended to push these problems and the associated stressors to the side for one night," Cr Blundell said.

There has been $90,000 worth of similar funding approved for 2016.


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

League connection alive for youth mental health

KEY PARTNERSHIP: Dexter Chew (Alive), Warwick and District Junior Rugby League secretary Rob Weaver and Tamsyn Rosenberg (Alive) link up to support players at risk.

WDJRL partners with Alive group to help youth mental health.

Worm juice readily available

GOING STRONG: The Whistle Stop Garden is still thriving despite the recent hot weather.

Volunteers at the Whistle Stop Garden have busy

Upgrades put on hold for Southern Downs road

HOLD OFF ON UPGRADES: Works to seal another section of Junabee Rd have been put on the backburner by Southern Downs councillors for the next two financial years due to cost.

Council has Junabee Rd works on backburner

Local Partners

Surviving drought conditions in the garden

Recent temperatures have left gardens struggling under the drought-like conditions

Sir Elton John coming to Mackay: What you need to know

Sir Elton will come to Mackay and Cairns in September.

Tickets to the concert go on sale on March 14

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: Global superstar to rock Mackay in 2017

A major concert is set to rock Mackay this year.

Mackay, Cairns to host world's biggest superstars Sir Elton John

Fun for all at Killarney Show

IN FORM: Mitchell Muller from Tannymorel won class four of the led steer judging at the Killarney Show in 2016.

Check out what's on over three big days in Killarney

Bliss N Eso announce tribute show for stuntman

AUSSIE hip hop outfit Bliss N Eso have announced they will play a tribute show for the stuntman killed during the filming of their music video.

MOVIE REVIEW: Trainspotting sequel as good as original

Ewen Bremner in a scene from the movie T2: Trainspotting.

Director Danny Boyle proves sequels can be done well.

How Karl Stefanovic's wife, kids found out about girlfriend

Karl Stefanovic and Jasmine Yarbrough after their day on Sydney Harbour. Picture: Jonathan Ng

Pictures splashed across tabloid were shock to family

WATCH: Toowoomba opera hopeful's incredible voice

Kaitlyn Orange attends Opera Queensland auditions at Empire Theatres for Opera at Jimbour, Saturday, February 18, 2017.

Opera hopefuls vie for parts in performance at Jimbour House

MKR turns spiteful in suddendeath elimination

Alyse and Matt battled Josh and Amy in a spiteful elimination cook-off.

Bottom of the ladder faces off in spiteful sudden-death cook-off.

Jilted Married At First Sight groom rejected again

Is Married at First Sight groom's second chance over already?

Sir Elton John coming to Mackay: What you need to know

Sir Elton will come to Mackay and Cairns in September.

Tickets to the concert go on sale on March 14

Popular island resort sells to loaded international investor

OUR PICK: Chris Foey's colourful shot of one of Gladstone's great tourism hot spots, Heron Island.

International investor snaps up piece of Gladstone paradise.

Expert: Why renters, home buyers may struggle

Matusik Property Insights director Michael Matusik.

What's next for the city's housing market

Massive seaside development of 3200 lots

DESIRABLE LIFESTYLE: The masterplan for the proposed Elliott Heads Estate.

"There's nothing else left along the coastline of Queensland now"

Potential home buyers punished for doing the 'right thing'

Should I go to university or buy a house?

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!