July 18, 2017
A group of about 20 Kumbia residents met at the Kumbia Hotel on Monday night to hear how AGL’s proposed Coopers Gap Wind Farm – and a community grants scheme that would come with it – could benefit the town.
The meeting was organised by Cr Ros Heit and was originally intended to be addressed by Clare Wilkes, AGL’s Senior Community Relations and Governance Manager.
However Ms Wilkes was called away to Adelaide at the last minute, so the meeting was attended by Karyn Looby, who normally oversees community relations at AGL’s Silverton wind farm near Broken Hill in NSW.
Ms Looby told the meeting that while the Coopers Gap Wind Farm had not yet received a final go ahead, if it does proceed then AGL will likely be able to invest $15,000 into neighbouring communities each year for the expected 25 year life of the project.
Ms Looby said AGL wanted to work with the wind farm’s three core neighbouring communities of Kumbia, Bell and Jandowae, and wanted to set up a structure to administer the distribution of funds.
While the finer points would probably not be put in place until the wind farm project was given final approval, Ms Looby said the system AGL used in other communities was that potential projects were initially assessed by a panel composed of community members.
That group then forwarded the most promising project applications to AGL for final assessment and funding.
A representative from the Coopers Gap Community Consultative Committee (CCC) told the meeting the CCC had been meeting for more than 10 years since the wind farm was first proposed.
He said the group had already put in a lot of work to develop a model similar to the one Ms Looby suggested, but wanted to stress that until project was a certainty all work done by the CCC to date was speculative.
“If the wind farm doesn’t go ahead, we should be clear there’s no AGL money for the community,” he said.
Cr Heit then asked the meeting what projects they thought might be good for town.
Answers ranged from “a community hall like the Bell Community Centre” to “a new kitchen for Kumbia Memorial Hall”.
James Curtain from the Kumbia Race Club suggested the town’s biggest problem was ageing infrastructure; Kumbia State School principal Ross Deards said further improvements to the school that could also be used by community groups would prove valuable; and a representative from the QCWA said a mobile food van to assist first responders in local emergencies like bushfires or floods was one idea her own group had discussed.
In the end, Cr Heit said the best approach might be to develop a long-term plan for Kumbia that took all of these ideas into account, along with any others that might be suggested by other groups not at Monday night’s meeting.
Dafyd Martindale from southburnett.com.au told the meeting the Maidenwell and Yarraman communities had developed their own long-term community plans during the past few years, and this approach had proven very successful for them.
He suggested the meeting might like to consider following a similar approach, since it appeared to be working well in two other South Burnett towns.
The meeting wrapped up after about 90 minutes with most attendees agreeing to give the things discussed more thought, and attend a follow-up meeting in four to eight weeks after they’d consulted with members of their own community groups.