The “rent a farmhouse” initiative has come to Warialda. The Warialda community, spearheaded by Mrs Wendy Mayne, has formed a group called “Busy Bees” to take responsibility for the scheme. The immediate goal is to bring families with children to the town, so the non-teaching principal’s position can be retained at Warialda Primary School. Ten children are needed by February for this to be achieved.
The idea of having farmhouses to rent for nominal payment, with the aim of increasing a town’s population, was first put into practice in Levendale, Tasmania in 2008. Since then, Cumnock has taken up the idea, with apparently great success, as has Greenethorpe in southern NSW.
Two representatives from the Warialda committee, two council-lors and two Council staff visited Cumnock recently to investigate the scheme. Deputy Mayor, Catherine Egan, who was part of the delegation, said the whole trip was “inspiring”.
Mayor, John Coulton also felt that the trip had been very successful, from the generosity shown in providing information about the farmhouse renting scheme to the co-operative approach displayed with regard to the workings of the Cabonne Shire.
Cr Coulton told the Council meeting, held last Thursday, that Cumnock has 1600 people on their database waiting to “go bush” which should augur well for Warialda. Cr Coulton did say that “we need to get the right people here” and that there has been some difficulty in finding farmhouses.
Councillors agreed that the project needed to be driven by the community, Cr King saying that the “declining population is the greatest challenge facing this council.” The project is focusing on Warialda at the moment, but the potential is there for other communities within Gwydir Shire to start considering implementing the initiative.
Christine Weston, who was the person responsible for starting the “rent a farmhouse” scheme in Cumnock and is reputedly an enthusiastic and engaging person, is to be the guest speaker at a country living forum being organised by Vision 2020 to be held in February next year.