Troops head to coast

Townsville Bulletin - - News - by Martin Rasini martin. rasini@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

SOL­DIERS will be sent to the Cas­sowary Coast to speed up the post-Yasi clean-up ef­fort amid fears a new cy­clone could de­velop next week.

Eigh­teen sol­diers and five ve­hi­cles from the Townsville-based 3rd Brigade will travel to the re­gion to­day to bol­ster the lo­cal clean-up ef­fort.

The Army Task El­e­ment, equipped with two Mack dump trucks, a fron­tend loader, and chain­saws will start their work this morn­ing at Mis­sion Beach and is pre­pared to work for 48 hours.

Com­man­der 3rd Brigade, Bri­gadier Stu­art Smith, said the task el­e­ment in­cluded sol­diers who had com­pleted emer­gency re­sponse tasks fol­low­ing Cy­clone Yasi so they were well pre­pared to sup­port lo­cal emer­gency ser­vices.

A spokesman for fed­eral At­tor­ney­Gen­eral Robert Mc­Clel­land, whose depart­ment is re­spon­si­ble for Emer­gency Man­age­ment Aus­tralia, said the

It is a pri­or­ity to get all this cleaned up, so that’s great news

– Bill Shan­non

de­ploy­ment was based on a re­quest for help from the lo­cal coun­cil.

Cas­sowary Coast Mayor Bill Shan­non wel­comed the de­ploy­ment, say­ing it would have taken the coun­cil an­other week to clean up de­bris from Yasi, which hit the re­gion early last month.

‘‘ It is a pri­or­ity to get all this cleaned up, so that’s great news,’’ Mr Shan­non said.

The Bu­reau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy says there is a mod­er­ate chance a low­pres­sure sys­tem which formed in the Co­ral Sea on Fri­day could de­velop into a cy­clone on Mon­day.

L O C A L s u b - c o n t r a c t o r s work­ing on the city’s clean-up are an­gry with coun­cil, say­ing south­ern­ers are be­ing favoured for re­main­ing work and lo­cals are be­ing laid off as the job winds down.

Coun­cil Watch Group chair­man Jonathan Me­hi­gan said yes­ter­day eight crews had been laid off, and a sub­con­trac­tor who con­tacted the Townsville Bul­letin said 20 lo­cal work­ers had been laid off on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day while south­ern­ers had been re­tained.

‘‘ It is a coun­cil job and the coun­cil should be tak­ing care of lo­cals,’’ he said.

Townsville City Coun­cil park ser­vices ex­ec­u­tive man­ager Ray Collins said over the past week or so, as the clean- up ad­vanced, the re­quired num­ber of con­trac­tors had fallen by about 20.

‘‘ But lo­cal con­trac­tors make up about 90 per cent of those still on the job,’’ he said.

‘‘ Mil­lions of dol­lars are be­ing pumped into the econ­omy through the clean-up and the mas­sive sweep of the city has been a boost for lo­cal con­trac­tors who had pri­or­ity.’’

The sub-con­trac­tor said he and nine oth­ers had been given their march­ing or­ders this week.

‘‘ We were told we would not be needed af­ter Fri­day but, the way we see it, south­ern­ers will still be work­ing,’’ he said.

‘‘ Our ques­tion to the coun­cil is: Why? We are lo­cals.

‘‘ What we earn will be spent to ben­e­fit the Townsville com­mu­nity whereas what the south­ern­ers earn will be spent down south.

‘‘ This is our city and should be our job first.

‘‘ I and oth­ers have fam­i­lies

it to feed and they are tak­ing our work.’’

An­other sub-con­trac­tor said there would eas­ily have been more than 100 trucks in­volved in the clean-up be­fore the lay­offs, which be­gan last week.

‘‘ I and a lot of oth­ers don’t think it is right that lo­cals are be­ing told to go home while sub­bies from south­ern ar­eas are still work­ing,’’ he said.

‘‘ We didn’t go south to take their jobs af­ter the floods and, while we don’t be­grudge them com­ing up and help­ing, we don’t think they should be favoured for the re­main­ing work.’’

Mr Collins said about 70 of the 80 con­trac­tors still work­ing on the clean-up were lo­cal and in­cluded larger com­pa­nies.

‘‘ The coun­cil has used lo­cal re­sources first wher­ever pos­si­ble and looked else­where for spe­cial equip­ment and per­son­nel that couldn’t be found in the city,’’ he said.

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