FUNDING FURORE CONTINUES
Mayor calls for politics to be put aside in Cat D fight
URGENT calls pleading for the Prime Minister and Minister for Justice to revisit the Whitsundays are now being made after last week’s Category D funding shortfall was announced.
As The Whitsunday Times went to press yesterday afternoon, Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen was holding a critical meeting with Whitsunday mayor Andrew Willcox, Mackay mayor Greg Williamson and the Minister for Justice Michael Keenan.
Ahead of the teleconference, Cr Willcox said it was paramount that a face-to-face meeting be held with Mr Turnbull and Mr Keenan in a vital bid to urge the Federal Government to match the State Government’s $110 million funding promise, so the area and economy could be rebuilt after the havoc wreaked by Cyclone Debbie.
“They’ve only committed $29 million to the whole of the state,” he said.
Cr Willcox said the Prime Minister had witnessed the cyclone damage on a regional fly-over, noting the issues and offering to “help us out”.
“I want Mr Keenan to come up here. I think everybody gets a better appreciation when they’re here,” Cr Willcox said.
“I’m emotional about it because it’s my community and my people suffering through this.”
Yesterday, Queensland’s Deputy Premier Jackie Trad also called on the Prime Minister to return to the Whitsundays.
“Malcolm Turnbull should come back to the community and see for himself that recovery for these communities doesn’t just stop after the cameras stop rolling,” she said.
The funding deficiency has meant there won’t be money for the Whitsunday Coast Airport upgrade, Airlie Beach Revitalisation, Bluewater Trail and Queens Park upgrade, Shute Harbour or South Rockhampton Flood Levee.
George Christensen, who recently announced he was “gutted” at the amount of funding currently pledged, said a key outcome for yesterday’s discussion was to get a review of many decisions including the refusal to fund Shute
But he also noted that on radio Ms Trad had “started to walk away from initial promises that the State Government would provide its full $110 million commitment to the cyclone recovery”.
“The indications were that they may now only provide that funding if the Federal Government provides likewise,” he said.
“The State Government has a budget and committed its $110 million promise. There is no reason to lower that commitment because it isn’t matched by federal funding.
“I would encourage the state to keep to their promise of $110 million and I will fight for adequate funding from the Federal Government.”
Ms Trad immediately denied the allegations and said Mr Christensen was “talking utter rubbish”.
“We have given a 100% rock solid guarantee that our $110 million is not going anywhere and will be spent in cyclone-affected communities,” she said.
Cr Willcox said politics needed to be cast aside.
“We’ve had one of the biggest natural disasters in history. And now it appears to be all argy-bargy between state and federal governments. I want them to put politics aside and work it out,” he said.
“We all need to work together for the common good of the people. I’m not going to rest on this one.”
LEFT: The Airlie Beach foreshore after Cyclone Debbie (March 30).