MONEY “wasted” on forced council mergers would be far better spent increasing services to counter the ice epidemic sweeping the region, a Riverina mayor believes.
Gundagai mayor Abb McAlister blasted the state government for pouring millions of dollars into council reforms instead of focussing on the issue of drugs that plagued every pocket of the Riverina.
Cr McAlister is one of many mayors of smaller Riverina shires who believe resources for drug addicts and their families are grossly inadequate in the bush.
It follows a Riverina father threatening to take the law into his own hands and target the dealers he blames for “slowly killing” his ice-addicted daughter.
The Young man vowed to risk going to jail if he could stop the dealers, while slamming the lack of resources available to help his 24-year-old daughter, who had been on drugs since she was 14.
Cr McAlister shares the sentiment.
“The government needs to focus on increasing resources,” Cr McAlister said.
“I think certainly more needs to be put into it. We have no drug clinic, it’s all done through our medical services. The government needs to fix problems much bigger than what they’re focussing on.”
Cr McAlister said ice information evenings, which started in Gundagai in May, were “a wake-up call” to just how bad the drug problem was. He implored the government to pour funding set aside for council amalgamations – which most Riverina councils strongly oppose – into boosting resources and fixing the drug problem “that really affects everyone here”.
It comes as one in four Wagga drivers are testing positive to drugs. A damning statistic that is felt in most other Riverina towns, with Narrandera ranking as the state's second-biggest hotspot for drugs last year.
Lockhart mayor Peter Yates said responsibility rested on the government to increase awareness and education programs, particularly for young people.
“There is a problem and it’s spiralling,” he conceded. “I think it needs to be brought to people’s attention more. As far as I’m concerned, the government should do as much as it can about it.”
Junee mayor Neil Smith hoped the government was aware of how problematic drugs were in rural regions.
“My understanding is ice affects people in rural areas greatly,” Cr Smith said.
“I certainly think the government should be putting money into it.”