Qld Government considers billion-dollar natural disaster levyFriday May 17, 2013 - 15:13 EST
Queenslanders look set to pay a new billion-dollar levy to help better protect communities from natural disasters.
Local Government Minister David Crisafulli has suggested the levy to pay for flood repairs and flood mitigation projects.
Mr Crisafulli says the charge would need to collect about $1 billion over four or five years.
He says it could be added to water, electricity and or rates charges.
Mr Crisafulli says the money would be kept separate from the State Government's consolidated revenue.
"That fund would deal with things - not just the recovery from disaster - but also building more resilient infrastructure when we do recover," he said.
"Looking at things like levee banks and dams and retention basins to prevent future floods."
Mr Crisafulli says he is yet to decide how it would be imposed on taxpayers.
"How that relates to the individual will depend on how it's collected, via what means," he said.
"Do we as a society believe we should put our shoulder to the wheel at this time and try and raise that money and create that fund."
However, Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan says he cannot understand why Queensland needs a new flood levy.
Mr Swan says the Commonwealth has already provided billions of dollars for flood recovery, some of which has not been spent.
"I'm somewhat puzzled as to why they would now turn around and try to seek to impose an additional tax on Queenslanders for the floods when we have given such significant money to Queensland over recent years, including $3 billion still sitting in an account unspent," he said.
State Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk says the LNP promised to reduce the cost of living.
"There is no need for the Newman Government to put this extra big new tax onto families at this time," she said.
"They didn't mention it before the election - once again a broken election commitment."
Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) spokeswoman Margaret de Wit says she is sceptical about the idea of a levy because of the lack of detail.
However, she disputes Mr Swan's claim that sufficient funding has already been provided.
"They may think they have poured money in and there has been a lot of money come through NDRAA [Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements] and through the State Government," she said.
"However it needs a lot more money than we have received for councils to be able to rebuild their infrastructure and rebuild their communities."
She also wants more detail about how the Queensland Government is going to collect the levy.
"Is it going to be a flat rate across the board? Is it going to be based on property values? Is it going to be commercial and residential?" she said.
LGAQ western regional president Bob Muir says a levy to help protect Queensland from natural disaster does have merit, but will only work if it is administered correctly.
"I do worry about some of these things," he said.
"When they're set up they've got to be administered and sometimes something that starts out as a good idea, usually runs away and ends up entirely different to what it's set up for.
"While I think the idea has merit and I do think we need a reserve fund, sometimes it just means a way of getting more money out of an already stressed population."
Councils also say they want more detail about the Queensland Government's flood levy plan.
Gympie Mayor Ron Dyne agrees something urgently needs to be done to reduce the impact of flooding throughout Queensland.
Gympie is one of the state's most flood-prone cities and Councillor Dyne says he supports the State Government plan to consider a billion-dollar levy.
He acknowledges people do not like levies but a plan for funding disasters needs to be considered.
"I don't doubt that every government is struggling for funds and so forth but we really need to just have the debate," he said.
"Certainly the Federal Government have got to be in on this discussion.
"The Minister's right - we need to have the discussion and see where we go from there."
North Burnett Mayor Don Waugh has also welcomed the idea of a levy because Queensland needs to prepare for future floods.
"We're looking at well over $110 million for the damage that's been done here and all of that comes to a massive amount of money," he said.
"For a Government to have that in its coffers ready to hand out, is really expecting a lot.
"I think preparing for it, setting a fund aside, and building it up over a number of years, is probably the sensible way to go."
Central Highlands Mayor Peter Maguire says a disaster recovery levy could help regions with the cost of building better infrastructure.
Councillor Maguire says local councils do not usually have the funds for long-term improvements.
"Certainly something has to be done," he said.
"If it was for a limited time, money was definitely set aside in a special fund to enhance betterment in the state - I think that's something people should consider."
Councillor Maguire says the Central Highlands area is often left with a large bill after disasters, and it means they struggle to improve vulnerable infrastructure.
"Once you get through that process of whatever the mitigation measure might be, then you've got the funding issues," he said.
"I've got a flood-focussed group going here now and we're not trying to look at what things might cost, but we need to set some goals about any possible mitigation measures might be useful for this community.
"The funding is a big part of it, and I guess that's what people are talking about at the moment."
However, the Tully Chamber of Commerce (TCC) in the state's far north says it doubts $1 billion would be sufficient to fund flood mitigation works around Queensland.
TCC president John Hughes says while the principle behind the proposed levy is sound, he is concerned about the cost burden.
"We get slugged all sorts of things that are dumped on top of the current electricity bills - this is another one," he said.
"If they want to raise $1 billion, it can't be done on one single electricity bill - that will just kill people.
"If it's done across a number of bills or even a number of years, it effectively becomes an ongoing tax - this is neverending."
© ABC 2013
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