FUND­ING FURORE CON­TIN­UES

Mayor calls for pol­i­tics to be put aside in Cat D fight

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - Louise Shan­non

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

Har­bour.

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.”

PHOTO: PETER CARRUTHERS

LEFT: The Air­lie Beach fore­shore af­ter Cy­clone Deb­bie (March 30).

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