Dou­glas re­gion ex­pected to count cost of flood im­pact

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - CHAR­LIE MCKIL­LOP

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.

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