ONE DOLLAR RENTALS

REPORTER: JONATHAN CREEK.

It is close to Paradise, at a dollar a week -- the Victorian country town of Wycheproof is desperate for new blood, and that's a once in a life time opportunity.

"Certainly the drought and changing agricultural practices have had an impact on the population decline and Wycheproof is like many other towns in Australia. So we've looked for innovative ways that other towns have developed, programs to attract people to their communities and that's where the one dollar rent a farm house program has come from"

Rather than have old farm houses empty, cereal farmers, like Gill and Alan Fawcett, are offering them for rent. "The ongoing trend is that the farms are getting a bit bigger and there are sometimes quite good farm houses left idle and so the population has diminished in Wycheproof and surrounding areas-- this is maybe a way of assisting a little population growth",

The first house in the Wycheproof Project is no palace, but it is liveable. The homes will get a limited make over before anyone moves in -- after that , it's up to the new tenants.

The rates are already covered by the land owner. "It's one dollar per week for two to three years and in return for that nominal rent, families that come into the houses will renovate the houses. All the work is detailed before hand so they are quite aware of what needs to be done and we also ask families to contribute to community life -- whether it be joining the local hockey team or helping out on one of the committees"

Kylie Brown runs the Post Office. The key to success she's convinced, is finding the right families to meet the town's employment needs. "There is work in Wycheproof. There are service areas which are unfulfilled. Often employment areas such as nurses jobs over at the Shire in administration, there are trade positions that are unfulfilled and services there that would be good business opportunities for people and we also hope if there are children coming with this project, there will be a demand for more teachers too",

Wycheproof got it's inspiration from Cumnock, New South Wales. In Nine months, nine families took up the one dollar offer and a further eleven families moved into other vacant rentals. All up 104 new residents now call Cumnock home, two thirds are children - it is a 20% increase in the town's population and three quarters found work within an hour's drive.

President of the Wycheproof -Narraport Demons Football Club, Merv Gaylor is desperate for recruits. "Now that we have all got into and understood what's it's all about, we are all in favour of it. The football club is one and twenty percent behind it because we can see it's going to increase our numbers at junior level", he said.

School Principal Christine McKersie claims there are many benefits in a small school, especially the relaxed Country lifestyle. "The freedom is here. Everyone in the town looks after each other, you know children down at the football everyone is always conscious of where the kids are and who's doing what. It's a town responsibility for that bringing up young people -- you just can't get a better environment", she said.

"You are paying a dollar to live locally, saving school fees, saving fees on travel because you don't have to travel places, so economically we find we do save a lot here in town",

Currently there are only two houses available in the program, with more coming on line within months. A committee of local business people will sort through all the applications and the final decision will be left to the farmers who own the homes.

And for all the details on how to apply:

* Visit the website at: www.wycheproof.vic.au

* Phone: 03) 9513 6753

* Or write to: Wycheproof Rent a Farmhouse, PO Box 8 Wycheproof.

Victoria, 3527.