Douglas region expected to count cost of flood impact
COMMUNITY leaders fear the cost of the recovery effort in Queensland’s worst-ever flood disaster could blow out the timeframe for infrastructure projects already long overdue in the Douglas region.
Mayor of Cairns Regional Council Val Schier has sought and received assurances projects already in the pipeline such as the hospital re-development and regional performing arts complex in Cairns would not be affected by the flood crisis.
However, Cr Schier said new projects were a “different kettle of fish” and hoped to gain a clearer picture of the budgetary implications from Federal Minister for Regional Development Simon Crean who was in Cairns yesterday.
“I think we have to acknowledge the reality of the impact of the rebuilding in flood affected areas but at the same time, infrastructure investment cannot stop in the rest of the state,” Cr Schier said.
The council would need to “look within its own coffers” as it prioritises its annual capital works expenditure of more than $100 million across the region, she said.
State Member for Cook Jason O’Brien admitted he was worried about securing vital government investment in Douglas in the postdisaster and recovery environment but vowed to not “take his foot off the accelerator”.
“The lagoon is still on the drawing board, it is not a live application. My intention was to secure a funding commitment in the upcoming budget or election process for early 2012 and that is not going to change,” Mr O’Brien said.
“The question is how hard it’s going to be, what the clean-up and rebuild involves and what the figure will be?”
With 20 victims confirmed dead and searching still underway for 12 people still missing, Mr O’Brien said now was not the appropriate time to query funding implications for local projects.
“These are legitimate questions and I’ll be taking it up as soon as Parliament resumes in February by which time I would expect we will have a clear indication of the cost and impact on the budget,” he said.
Port Douglas Chamber of Commerce president Ken Dobbs said no one in Port would begrudge fellow Queenslanders devastated by the floods the opportunity to get back on their feet.
“If the lagoon slips back a couple of years it would be unfortunate but it won’t be the reason the tourism turnaround doesn’t happen,” he said.
“People come here for the reef and rainforest, the quality of our restaurants and accommodation, natural environment and our beautiful town. They’re the fundamentals and none of those are at risk because of the circumstances which have so tragically affected other parts of Queensland,” he said.
Check out a special feature in next week’s as local leaders and representatives reveal their “wish list” of priorities for the community in 2011.