Today’s announcement of an additional $37.6 million in Federal Government disaster relief funding to repair critical infrastructure and damaged beach and river frontages is a victory for the battered communities of Mackay and the Whitsundays.
I took up the fight, along with local mayors Andrew Willcox and Greg Williamson, for a fairer funding distribution under Category D of the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) which now totalled more than $96 million.
The important thing to focus on today is that there’s an extra $15.2 million to restore the Shute Harbour Marina and get this business and tourism hub back up to speed.
And there’s an additional $1.8 million specifically for the seawall Betterment component of Shute Harbour.
I know that battered beachfronts and riverbanks copped a hiding during Cyclone Debbie and there is now an additional $20 million, on top of the $15 million already agreed to, for areas like Lamberts Beach and Midge Point in the Mackay region, Conway and Wilsons Beaches in the Whitsundays and the Don River and Front Beach in Bowen.
The beach and river works to be funded will be those identified by local governments, and administered by the State Government.
There’s also an additional $600,000, bringing the total to $1.2 million, to repair Mackay’s Bluewater Trail.
This is a significant boost to the original funding announcement which was just under $60m and is the first review of such funding that I am aware of in recent history.
Such a feat has only been achieved through the hard work of local mayors Andrew Willcox and Greg Williamson, which was boosted by the extra pressure I could bring to bear as their Federal representative.
The stumbling block to securing a better outcome initially was the State Labor Government’s spurious request for funding new projects which did not even exist, or were not cyclone-affected.
The original State Government request included a proposed Rockhampton flood levy and new upgrades to the Whitsunday Coast Airport.
They simply did not meet the criteria and should never have been listed in the first place.
With those two projects removed, the figure needed was around $100 million and that is the outcome we have now achieved.
The total bill to both state and federal government for Cyclone Debbie recovery is likely to be around $1 billion, and the Federal Government picks up 75% of the cost – that’s a significant investment in our region by anyone’s standard.
I hope state government processes are in place so that local councils could access the funding immediately and get on with the recovery work needed.