‘LET THEM TRY AND STOP US’: Charity determined to help
WATER relief charities could be under threat after saving the lives of hundreds of drought-stricken Southern Downs families, according to volunteers.
More than half a million litres of stock and potable water have been distributed by Granite Belt Water Relief since the organisation was founded in September.
Board member Graham Parker said the group filled a need for stock water in the agricultural region, as families were "getting behind on their bills and not feeding themselves because they needed to buy their animals water."
GBWR travels to rural homes, filling tanks, dispensing 1000L pods and providing tankers of potable water to a community that is "past desperation."
"I've had countless times where we've been filling a pod for someone and they'll just stand there, quietly sobbing," Mr Parker said.
"We've had people totally breaking down, it's really humbling."
But that service is provided under constant fear of closure, according to Mr Parker.
"As the charity was setting up the mayor went up to the people running it and said, 'You can't do this.'," he said.
"They basically tried to shut them down."
Mr Parker said in his own dealings with council staff members he has been told GBWR "needs to work with council" or "we have every right to shut (the charity) down."
"Let them do their worst, let them try to stop us," he said.
GBWR co-founder Samantha Wantling said she wasn't sure what council expected from them.
"I've been to a couple of meetings with council," she said.
"But we just do our own thing, because we find it a lot easier.
"We have water coming in, we give it to the people who need it, and we keep it as simple as possible."
Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said she remembered the interaction with GBWR quite differently.
"I was in a vehicle with the director of GIVIT and we stopped at a site there, near Applethorpe, where the drought relief was set up," Cr Dobie said.
"There was a conversation about whether they'd set themselves up as a registered charity or not, and they said they had applied but it hadn't come through yet.
"That was it, it wasn't to do with council, it was about GIVIT looking to partner with local charities."
Responding to claims of local government interference, Cr Dobie said charities had "nothing to do with council" and council encouraged generous callers to get in touch with such groups to provide support.
It may be "too little, and far too late" for Granite Belt volunteers such as Mr Parker.
"People are hurting because there's been absolutely no assistance," he said.
"Council resolutely refused to help rural residents with water for their stock, and people needed options.
"The Granite Belt community looks after itself and its members and it always has, because we just get overlooked constantly."