COUNCILLORS are hoping this year’s federal budget can make it rain in the region, in more than one sense.
Fingers are firmly crossed in Tamworth as the treasurer prepares to hand down the 2018 budget with hopes, typically, hanging on a cash-splash for roads and other regional infrastructure.
However, water security and drought assistance are looming large on the local wish-list.
Manilla councillor Jim Maxwell said he had never seen the country look as dry as it did presently and hoped financial support would flow for people living on the land.
“It could be catastrophic this winter, I don’t know how people are going to go,” Cr Maxwell said.
“I think people are really fighting at present and winter’s when it really strikes.”
He said people would need money to live “between now and when the drought breaks”.
Juanita Wilson said given Tamworth's growing population and the ongoing drought, the region's water security should be at the top of the government's agenda.
"I don't only mean funding for an investigation into a dam either," Cr Wilson said.
"We need to be looking at all key options for water security."
She'd also like to see consideration given to a Tamworth bypass and "really good assistance" to develop Tamworth Regional Airport into an international freight hub.
Acting mayor Helen Tickle said funding for the initial stages of a southern bypass, linking the Oxley Highway to the New England Highway, had become a more pressing issue and put it atop her budget wish-list.
Infrastructure and water also rated highly on Cr Tickle’s agenda.
She listed “activation” of the new Glen Artney business area, duplication of Goonoo Goonoo Road near Calala Lane, international freight capabilities at the airport and further investigation into future water security options for Tamworth.
Mark Rodda wanted the New England Highway upgraded with a focus on the southern entrance to the city.
“It’s a part of the national highway network and it’s almost unforgivable it’s in that condition,” he said.
“I’m supportive of Barnaby Joyce’s Port Stephens Cutting idea, it’s overdue for some funding, I don’t know how much is needed, it’s probably never going to be enough for that piece of road.”
Cr Rodda also wanted to see more federal funding directed at vocational education and training to help tackle youth unemployment in the region.