$85 million for Floods Support Package and Flood-Proofing Projects in Queensland
THU 28 FEBRUARY 2013
Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Emergency Management, Minister Assisting in Queensland Flood Recovery
The Gillard Government has today unveiled a Support Package to provide approximately $45 million to help Queenslanders recover and rebuild after the Australia Day floods.
The Commonwealth will also contribute $40 million toward a Betterment Fund that will rebuild council-owned roads and assets so they are more flood proof.
This assistance comes on top of the significant contribution that the Gillard Government is making already to assist Queenslanders to recover from the latest disaster events. The Government knows what needs to be done and we want to get on with the job of providing assistance where it is needed most.
The Queensland Support Package will target the worst hit areas and includes specialised assistance to aid clean-up efforts, community recovery initiatives, impacted businesses, primary producers, and day labour costs. The Commonwealth will meet the majority of costs for this assistance.
Under the package, $5 million will be allocated for standalone Community Recovery Packages for Bundaberg and North Burnett to roll out mental health services, community events and facilities designed to help communities heal together.
A $2 million Small Business Advisory Service will provide low cost business advice to small businesses requiring management capability, business skills and financial management support.
Targeted clean-up programs for primary producers in Bundaberg, North Burnett and the Lockyer Valley worth $10 million will support up to 160 casual labourers to remove debris, assist in the hire of machinery from local contractors and fund local organizations like Blazeaid and the Queensland Rural Fire service.
Debris will be cleared from waterways, particularly for areas creating hazards downstream, aiding environmental clean-up efforts.
Programs like Reef Rescue and state environmental programs will be supported to undertake environmental cleanup and resilience work.
Specialised industry recovery officers within agriculture organizations like AgForce and the Queensland Farmers Federation will be funded to provide tailored support to farmers as they prepare for the next season's crop.
The Rural Financial Counsellor program will receive a one off boost to help manage increased demand.
Local councils will be supported by the extension of the Local Government Value for Money Pricing Model, commonly called the day labour trial. This program, which particularly assists rural and regional councils, will be extended to cover the work created by the latest natural disasters.
Category D concessional grants and loans will also be funded through the package.
The package will include joint contributions from the Queensland Government.
In addition to the Queensland Support Package, for the first time the Gillard Government will contribute $40 million toward the establishment of a Betterment Fund to rebuild council-owned roads and assets, making them more flood proof.
The Queensland Government has been asked to provide a matched contribution to the fund in order to deliver $80 million to Local Government Areas hardest hit.
The fund will streamline approvals and fast-track works needed to build back local council infrastructure well above current engineering standards, making at-risk local government areas stronger and more resilient.
The fund will target councils that do not have the means to repair their own roads above current standards but where there is a clear need to do so, including Bundaberg.
Under the fund, projects to improve drainage, strengthen road sealings, and stabilize slopes and shoulders will improve the resilience of council-owned roads to withstand flood events.
The fund will be administered through a value-for-money process by the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, with small projects of up to $2.5 million able to be automatically funded.
The Commonwealth will have oversight for major projects to guarantee Australian taxpayers get value for money and that the funding covers as many projects as possible.
Under current arrangements roads and assets are required to be built back to current engineering standards. In many cases, that means when roads are damaged and replaced they are already improved from the standard they were previously.
The Betterment Fund will only cover local government roads and assets. State Governments should self-fund improvements to their own infrastructure or can continue to use betterment arrangements, available since 2007, to repair State assets.
The Fund will operate through a new framework once it is agreed to by the Queensland Government under the National Partnership Agreement. Either party can make a contribution to the fund at any time, which will only operate while solvent.
The Gillard Government understands what is needed to get Queensland communities back on their feet, and we have paid almost $120 million into the bank accounts of over 100,000 disaster-affected Queenslanders since January through the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment.
This new package is addition to the support already being provided under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, which are jointly funded by the Australian Government and the states (see Attachment A).
Under those arrangements, the Commonwealth will meet 75 per cent of the costs for restoration of essential public assets – the single largest expense to get communities back on their feet.
More information about the assistance that available in each affected local government area can be found atwww.disasterassist.gov.au.