Call for resilient community fund

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

A coalition of local groups will petition the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River to establish a ratepayer-backed community resilience fund.

The move by the new Community Resilience Alliance comes from leaders including Transition Margaret River, the Margaret River Chamber of Commerce, Just Home, the Margaret River Regional Environment Centre, Climate Action Margaret River, Mindful Margaret River, Nature Conservation and Augusta-Margaret River Clean Community Energy, and other volunteer groups heartened by the Shire’s $2 million community care fund to support residents through the pandemic.

The fund would be used to leverage external funding for the sake of community projects.

The alliance has developed a checklist of recommendations that includes seed funding to develop social housing, establishing a “local currency”, and greater funding for the arts to engage with residents.

The groups started their conversation via Zoom during the shutdown last month and lodged the proposal with the Shire to consider for this year’s budget.

“The purpose was to discuss and work towards a joint vision for the ‘new normal’ and develop practical initiatives for COVID-19 recovery and transition to resilience for the Augusta-Margaret River community,” the alliance statement said. “The vision of a resilient Augusta-Margaret River is a community that has the capacity to withstand crises and has the necessary perspective and strengths to recover and grow from adversity.

“This is a community that can create positive change, adapt and thrive when change is forced upon us — a healthy, fair, connected community supported by a healthy natural environment that provides a safe haven for people and nature.”

The alliance said most of its members were volunteers — many with specific expertise — but groups struggled with limited resources, burnout, and lack of co-ordination.

A core tenet of the funding proposal was prioritisation of the “locally focused, circular and sustainable economy”. Shire president Ian Earl said discussions were taking place between the Shire executive and alliance members “seeking further clarity on the proposal and funding requirements”.

“Councillors are currently considering effective ways to allocate the remaining $1.5m community care package funding, with a possible funding stream established to bolster future resilience,” he said.

“This funding stream may align with the aims in their proposal.

“Just Home have (also) applied for funding from the Shire for 2020-21 and will be considered as part of budget deliberations.”

In addition to extra funding for volunteer groups to further community projects meeting the alliance’s goals, a “small loan scheme” was proposed to draw upon the Shire’s existing environmental management fund reserves for renewable-energy projects and “undertake environmental restoration and enable more jobs and training”.

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