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Qld Reconstruction Authority extension welcomed

By Lauren Day and Stephanie Smail, Thursday September 27, 2012 - 11:01 EST

Councils have welcomed the State Government decision to extend the Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) to June 2014.

The State Government yesterday announced it was extending the life of the QRA, because only about two-thirds of the state's multi-billion-dollar rebuild has been completed.

The reconstruction effort was due to wrap up by February next year, but the Queensland Government says the job is not done.

Over the past three years cyclones and floods have destroyed road networks and flattened buildings across Queensland.

They have been some of the worst natural disasters in Australian history and the QRA has a $12 billion budget to make repairs.

The Federal Government is funding 75 per cent of the rebuilding effort and the Queensland Government is providing the rest.

However, the State Government has accused the QRA of being too slow.

Cassowary Coast Mayor Bill Shannon says natural disasters are a permanent part of life in some regions and the QRA may be needed beyond 2014.

"It'd be good if it didn't get completely disbanded," he said.

"My own personal view is that it should be shrunk down and perhaps embedded within another Government department, so that it can be ramped up again in the event of there being a major cyclone or a major disaster or series of disasters.

"I think the model has worked quite well."

Mr Shannon says he is pleased with the extension and understands why it has taken so long to rebuild after the summer of natural disasters.

"It was never going to be fixed in a short while - the process and the scale of the disaster is just so great," he said.

"Has it taken too long - it probably has, but that's the process the Government has set up and when you're dealing with public money, that's quite reasonable."

Worst delays

Local councils say communities in Queensland's south-west and the Gulf country in the far north of the state have suffered the worst delays.

But Balonne Shire Mayor Donna Stewart, in southern Queensland, has defended the QRA efforts.

"I couldn't speak highly enough of them," she said.

"They have delivered way over and above of what have even expected them to."

Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) spokesman Greg Hallam says a number of factors have contributed to delays.

He says the Federal Government demanded a huge amount of detail about the damage before releasing its funding.

"Every single asset that was damaged - we're not talking about 10 kilometres of road but sections of road, footpaths - every single asset had to be photographed," he said.

"We're talking tens of thousands of photos."

He says getting access was also a significant problem for reconstruction crews.

"It took them the best part of a year to physically be able to drive some of those assets," he said.

"Some of those roads did not dry out for 12 months out in those remote areas."

Too slow

However, Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney says the work has not happened fast enough.

"There probably is some validity in the suggestion that this work could have been done a lot sooner," he said.

"It took the previous [Labor] government a long time to wind up to a rate of work that would get this task completed.

"It was a huge task and the important thing is to now to ensure that the task is completed."

The QRA chairman was not available for comment.


- ABC

© ABC 2012

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