There has been positive and negative aspects to the Queensland flood clean-up efforts, says Tim Badrick. One solution, he suggests, is the de-amalgamation of the Queensland "super-councils".
THE FLOODS have come and gone in Queensland and the long road to economic and social recovery begins for Brisbane and a swag of regional cities and towns across the state.
Depending on who you talk to, the clean-up effort to date which has been carried out by a mismatched but only too eager coalition of state emergency workers, council labourers, charities and mum and dad volunteers has been reasonably effective in getting our cities and towns up and running again well ahead of schedule, while other flood victims are claiming that buck passing and inaction between various politicians as to which level of government is responsible for their plight and has seen them thrown on the backburner, still waiting for desperately needed assistance to get back in a house which is fit for habitation. Insurance companies, with the exception of Suncorp, are leaving thousands of Queenslanders hanging out to dry while they procrastinate over flood cover technicalities in an attempt to snake their way out of paying any money to those whose properties were inundated by what they term 'undefinable weather events'.
Meanwhile, as they "ummm" and "arrrr" and leave thousands of Queenslanders in financial limbo and with uninhabitable houses, the federal government continues to play hard ball with Queensland councils over funding to re-build vital infrastructure, which was either destroyed or severely damaged by the devastating floods. At least as far as their public response and mannerisms go, it has been hard to fault both Queensland premier Anna Bligh or her across town LNP opponent, Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman. Both of them hit the ground running and acted upon the advice given to them by the various emergency services departments to cobble together a rescue plan as good as could have been expected given the time-frame they were given. Julia Gillard, on the other hand, has not been forthright and straightforward in addressing the concerns of Cr. Newman and various other regional mayors as to the funding arrangements
directly between the federal government and the Queensland councils to re-build flood affected public infrastructure.
At the moment, many parts of Queensland have come to a screaming halt because they have been hit by a double whammy of having insurance companies leaving people high and dry while they attempt to sidestep having to pay flood victims at least enough money to allow them to re-build their houses to a satisfactory level of restoration, while at the same time we find that the various layers of government are not providing the service delivery required under the circumstances because, (a) councils dont know to what extent the federal government is going to compensate them and how quickly it will be re-imbursed to them, and (b) there is still so much ambiguity between the local and state government level as to who is responsible for flood damaged infrastructure
in many instances, as is commonly the case where local and state government share jurisdiction over anything from a community hall built on crown land to a road network where local council managed roads feed off a state managed road under the authority of Main Roads.
These are teething issues which must be rectified as soon as possible, insurances companies must stop putting flood payouts on ice and do the socially responsible thing, need I say more. And Julia Gillard just has to spit it out and say how much money the Commonwealth can give to the councils like about yesterday, without any more dilly-dallying around.
It`s times like these that one would have to consider the futility and impracticality of Beattie's and Fraser's council amalgamations of 2008. So many outposts in Queensland right now which
copped a battering from the floods could really do with the decentralised council resources, which were taken away and re-located to the nearest bigger town to them that is the present day headquarters for one of the new super councils which evolved three years ago. Not just the human resources, but the tractors, the heavy earthmoving equipment, all the logistical and mechanical godsends which should be available in every single Queensland town come hell or high water. No town should be without any of that, but the council amalgamations had no respect for rural autonomy and retaining the independence of Queensland towns to be able to stand on their own two feet in a time of crisis like the one we've just seen.
I dont want to sound too much like Lawrence Springborg but I think the time has come for de-amalgamation.
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