State ac­cused of ‘rort­ing’ cy­clone re­lief

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS -

NEW pa­pers show Fed­eral Govern­ment of­fi­cials re­jected the ma­jor­ity of the Queens­land Govern­ment’s pleas for aid be­cause it be­lieved the ap­pli­ca­tions were not el­i­gi­ble – even say­ing the at­tempts were in part “a bla­tant rort on the Aus­tralian Govern­ment’s gen­er­ous” aid poli­cies.

On Mon­day of­fi­cials said they would re­con­sider parts of the state’s Cat­e­gory D ap­pli­ca­tion for Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Deb­bie fund­ing, but again made clear suc­cess would re­quire a raft more proof the ap­pli­ca­tions were el­i­gi­ble.

The doc­u­ments from the Jus­tice De­part­ment show the Fed­eral Govern­ment all but backed out of sup­port­ing five ma­jor projects in the wake of the cy­clone.

They state there was “no in­for­ma­tion about how the (Whit­sun­day) air­port was di­rectly dam­aged by Cy­clone Deb­bie”, and claim the Air­lie Beach Fore­shore Re­de­vel­op­ment was a new in­fra­struc­ture project.

The doc­u­ments say that “while ini­tial es­ti­mates in­di­cate that there is $8.8M (in) dam­age to the (Shute Har­bour) ma­rina, it is in­sured. So what are they plan­ning? To be handed $8.8M from in­sur­ers and then another $8.8M from Aus­tralian tax­pay­ers”?

The Whit­sun­day coun­cil had ap­plied for th­ese projects to stim­u­late their strug­gling lo­cal econ­omy where busi­nesses re­mained closed more than three months af­ter the cy­clone.

“(Th­ese) were part of an iconic in­fra­struc­ture project which helps us re­build our re­gion and pro­vide an eco­nomic stim­u­lus,” Mayor An­drew Will­cox said.

Cr Will­cox ad­mit­ted there was an in­sur­ance claim for the ma­rina but said it would cost more to build a new strong ma­rina that would stand up against the next cy­clone than it would to build the same stan­dard.

And as for the money, he said what­ever money wasn’t spent in­clud­ing the in­sur­ance claim would be re­turned to the Fed­eral and State gov­ern­ments.

PHOTO: GARY RA­M­AGE

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