Bush towns ‘left to die’ as drought bites in
Bush towns are being "left to die" as shops close down, leaving elderly and vulnerable locals stranded without access to basics like groceries or a bank.
Communities are crying out for new residents to take up vacant shopfronts and keep their towns going now the drought has started to ease in some areas.
The Trundle Food Store is the latest in a long line of losses for the agricultural region of about 300 people, where banks, cafes, a cinema and post office have all shut in recent years.
With a monthly rent bill of just $750, the Trundle community is eager for someone to reopen a grocery outlet.
"Aunty" Jeanette Williams, 91, used to drive to town in a red Mercedes, but the car's long gone and now she's limited to a mobility scooter.
She relies on people in the community picking her up a few items when they do their own shopping.
The shop's closure has also ended Ms Williams' favourite social outlet, as she would regularly stop for a coffee and chat after purchasing her groceries.
"People like Aunty Jeanette really relied on that shop to stay independent … without the town checking on her who knows what would happen," Trundle hardware store owner Garry Williams said. "It's a good little shop, a very viable business, we all just want someone to come out here and take it on."
Local mum Jo Charlton said the shop's closure had pushed already financially strained families to the brink, with the distance to the nearest stores now requiring precise planning. "You can't just pop up to the shop if you're suddenly a bit short on something for kid's school lunches.
Trundle Central school principal John Southon said his students were missing out on basic opportunities like having a weekend retail job or even getting an ice cream as a treat on a hot day.
"We drive the high school children to Dubbo for their week of work experience, they stay in a caravan park and get a chance to get retail experience," he said.