Transcript - Coolamon Press Conference

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Great to be here today in Coolamon with Mayor John Seymour and General Manager Tony Donoghue and we are talking about the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure funding that Coolamon Shire has received, $1.4 million. We're in the Up-to-date Store where there's going to be refurbishments and an extension with a new building to be added, $187,000 to be spent here which is going to mean five jobs. Now five jobs might not sound a lot but that's going to be local construction, that's going to be local workers and that's what the local roads and community infrastructure, as part of the Budget, is all about. $1.5 billion going right across the nation, supporting local jobs, supporting local small businesses and supporting local councils just like Coolamon Shire Council, one of 537 councils across the nation to benefit from this support. And I can think of no better place than to spend that sort of money than on a facility such as this, which is preserving and restoring Coolamon's history, it is a magnificent history, for generations to come. It's a great story, it's a great story in the past, it's a great story now and with this money, with this funding, with this initiative, it's going to be a great story for the future.

JOURNALIST

How important is it to preserve that history of small country towns like Coolamon?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It's absolutely critical and we've got the Garth Jones collection here which is about local agriculture. Coolamon punches well above its weight when it comes to growing wheat, when it comes to producing sheep and everything else that the Coolamon Shire produces as far as agriculture and farming is concerned. But also there's a military museum here second to none. It has the story of those brave Coolamon soldiers who went to all the conflicts but particularly World War I, the Great War, when of course, we know that that first saying by the then-Prime Minister, all those years ago in 1914, that they would fight to every last man and every last shilling was first uttered here in Coolamon. So Coolamon has an integral part to play in the military history of our nation and certainly right here at the Up-to-date Store at the neighbouring RSL War Memorial Museum and of course, the additional facilities that are going to be built as part of the local roads and community infrastructure. They're preserving the history for the future. We've got a great library connected with this Up-to-date Store. It is a magnificent store and I'd urge and encourage everybody who wants to go on a day trip or indeed, spend a little bit longer time, come out to Coolamon and have a look at what this town has to offer – cheese factory, Up-to-date Store, a community which is big enough in which to get a good cup of coffee and small enough to still care.

JOURNALIST

And how important is it to keep continually investing in small regional roads as well as towns and their roads as well because, you know, we obviously see the big highways get a bit of an upgrade but it's good to see money coming towards these local roads, too, isn't it?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

As the Nationals Leader, I've made it a priority for local roads and we're in National Road Safety Week and, unfortunately, our numbers on the road toll are disproportionately towards regional people being killed on our roads and that's why during the Budget I've allocated $2 billion for road safety upgrades. That's why as part of the Budget I've put $1.5 billion towards the local roads and community infrastructure funding to improve those local roads and whether you're travelling on the Canola Way, no matter what road you're travelling on, roads through Marrar, through Beckom, through Matong, through Ganmain, through Ardlethan or through Coolamon, I want you to know that you've got a safe road on which to travel. We've got better cars, we've got better roads, we're putting the funding in towards it, we also need good driver behaviour in National Road Safety Week, that's also critical.

JOURNALIST

It's not just about preserving history and obviously keeping people safe with the roads as well, it's actually about bringing people to Coolamon, these upgrades sort of make it more attractive for people driving past. They might be going to Wagga and they hear Coolamon’s got a nice upgrade, let's go there, check it out.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Why would you want to live anywhere else than in the Riverina? They're calling them VESPAs, they're virus escapees. Coming from the metropolitan cities and looking at setting up in a place like Wagga Wagga. Indeed, in a place like Coolamon or any one of the other fine towns and villages in this shire and across the Riverina and Central West.

There are so many people in regional centres for who are now looking for that tree change. Who now realise they can be at home, working from home, in their study at home, in their kitchen at home, on a Zoom meeting and they might as well be in a boardroom in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. It doesn't matter because they've still got that connectivity and we've spent a lot of money, hundreds of millions of dollars, on mobile phone connectivity and when you've got that connectivity, better mobile access, better Internet access and better roads, why wouldn't you want to come and live in a regional centre? Because you've got no congestion, you've got fresh air that's easy to breathe and you don't have to spend all day looking at the brake lights in front of you going to and from work and that's why I encourage people to come and live in a place like Coolamon. It's a great, great town, got a great mayor, got a great council, got a fantastic aged care centre. It's got absolutely everything anybody could want to live in and I encourage people to take that opportunity. Pick up the phone, ring Coolamon Shire and see why and what options are there for you and real estate prices are pretty good, too. You can live like a king or queen in place like this, have a big backyard and have a community that really cares about you and your family.

JOURNALIST

Alright, well it must be exciting to see this money coming to Coolamon?

JOHN SEYMOUR

It certainly is and I would just like to thank Michael and the Federal Government for allocating that sort of money into the shire. It's allowed us to spread it all over the shire – especially in roads and we're an agriculture shire, the movement of all our products or produce is fairly important.

JOURNALIST

And where do you see these investments that are taking Coolamon or can you see, you know, is Coolamon going to become a more attractive sort of place, do you think, because of these investments?

JOHN SEYMOUR

At the moment, yes. You get new people that come in and you ask them why did they select Coolamon to move to. Well, they say we've got all the facilities that we need and if we need anymore it's just down the road, half an hour and you've got bigger ones in Wagga Wagga.

JOURNALIST

And so can you explain a bit more about some of the other projects as well that are taking place, not just this one and the roads as well, what are some of the other upgrades?

JOHN SEYMOUR

One of the big ones is at Ardlethan and the Men's Shed out there and it's certainly, it's something that's been on the books for quite a while but now it's up and running. They're over the moon about it.

JOURNALIST

Obviously you are excited to get the money. Did Coolamon sort of need – does this place sort of need an upgrade, a bit of a boost? It looks fantastic and it smells great.

JOHN SEYMOUR

It is coming together. It needed a lot of work done to it in the first place. It was becoming dilapidated but we're gradually getting on top of it and with the money that's coming in it's really helping to get it up to scratch.

JOURNALIST

And how important historically is this place to Coolamon's history?

JOHN SEYMOUR

It really is historical because we've been able to store the history of over the years in Coolamon and Coolamon Shire to, you know, have a central place to put it.

JOURNALIST

And Coolamon has quite a long and storied history as well. Do you think the upgrade here will bring a bit more attention to that history?

JOHN SEYMOUR

I think so. It seems to be at the moment, yes.

JOURNALIST

Obviously very exciting to see this money come through?

TONY DONOGHUE

Absolutely. We've been trying to spread that money through six of our communities that we have and employ as many people as we can and keep the guys or the people here with jobs working hard. We've had a pretty rough time, four, five years of drought, COVID hit us, so that money that's been rolling out has been very good for the communities that we have and then on top of that we've got a bumper crop this year – looks like. So there's smiles in our communities all round and a lot of projects getting done.

JOURNALIST

And those projects as well, they create quite a few jobs as well, local jobs as well, could you talk about how many jobs will be created and sort of what are you looking at in terms of that?

TONY DONOGHUE

Well, the way we've spread them around, we've got a lot of our contractors that are just maintaining their work throughout all of that, plus some additional jobs. But I wouldn't be able to put a number to it other than maintaining our current work force or our current contractors in work.

We've been building paths, kerb and gutter, museums, caravan park improvements and road upgrades, this work here at the Up-to-date Store, the Matong community has got a basketball court, all those sort of projects. As I said, we're trying to get as much as we can down into each of those communities to make sure that they still had money turning over in those economies. When the COVID crisis hit, we took a position at council that we would maintain employment wherever we could throughout our communities and we've managed to achieve that and it's been very prosperous for us in that regard.

JOURNALIST

Just how important are these projects and the restoration of a place like this as well?

TONY DONOGHUE

The Up-to-date Store is very iconic. It's at the top of our main street. It's a focal point as you drive into town. Not looking after that would be a very bad perspective on our whole community so we've grabbed the project and have delivered, as you can see around you now, a real culture and arts and community hub that is a focal point for our community.

JOURNALIST

And in terms of roads as well, it's great to see some upgrades to some local areas that probably needed it?

TONY DONOGHUE

We always need to maintain our roads. We have a very large productivity requirement from our farming and rural communities, so maintaining our road network is always a challenge. We have, obviously, a lower rate base but that doesn't mean we have any less need for roads through our productivity needs. So any upgrade to roads is a necessity and as you probably know, vehicles are getting heavier and longer and that puts a strain on historical road networks that did not have those issues when crops need to be got off as quickly as possible. We need to increase our road width, length and capacities to make sure that we deliver that.

ENDS 10:43AM

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