First drought, now Walgett loses its food

The supermarket in Walgett was gutted by fire forcing residents to travel 80km for food and supplies
The supermarket in Walgett was gutted by fire forcing residents to travel 80km for food and supplies

Walgett is already "on its knees" because of the drought, and now the northern NSW town with little access to water has lost its main supply of food.

The small community suffered a devastating blow on Wednesday when its only supermarket was gutted by fire.

The blaze left those living in Walgett and surrounds with no other option but to travel at least 80km to Lightning Ridge for even the most basic supplies.

"In the short term, it's going to create a lot of havoc," Walgett Shire Council mayor Manuel Martinez told AAP on Thursday.

"These little communities suffer so much and when you've got to travel 80km or 110km to the nearest shopping centre, just to get your basics, it's a real blow."

While the loss is a setback Walgett can ill-afford, Mr Martinez says his community is used to getting knocked down and getting back up again.

"You just brush yourself off and away you go," he said.

"It's very devastating for our little shire but we can just look forward and believe and look into the future and be positive."

Locals held an emergency meeting on Wednesday and came up with the idea of a free bus service, to be run by the council, to transport people to nearby Coonamble.

They are also planning a pop-up market to sell main supplies.

It's the second time in six years the owners of the supermarket have lost their business to fire, but Mr Martinez says they have told the town they intend to rebuild once again.

"It's early days, but we're just trying to turn defeat into victory," he said.

Western NSW Minister Adam Marshall said having to travel 80km for groceries may as well be 800 or 8000km because many don't have the means to get there.

"The township of Walgett is already on its knees," he told state parliament on Wednesday.

"The government will stand by that community and will work ... to make sure that no one in Walgett is adversely affected by this extra blow it received."

The town has had to rely on bore water for almost 18 months after its reservoirs reached critically-low levels. There are plans to truck bottled water into Walgett.

Australian Associated Press