Gympie region one of 9 to miss out on govt recovery cash
THE Queensland Government has condemned Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s failure to extend $1 million bushfire recovery grants to Gympie and eight other Queensland bushfire impacted communities.
Cameron Dick, the Minister responsible for the Queensland Reconstruction Authority said the Prime Minister’s decision to refuse funding for the nine communities, while increasing grants to councils that have already received the $1 million grant, is absurd.
Though the two main fires that threatened the Gympie region during the worst of the heat and dry at the end of the year - one that burnt at Upper Kandanga for weeks and the Black Snake fire near Widgee and Kilkivan - caused no catastrophic devastation or loss of life, they did require thousands of hours of volunteer fire fighting.
Other affected council areas include Bundaberg, Gold Coast, Gladstone, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Redlands, Somerset and Toowoomba.
“Increasing the grants from $1 million to up to $1.3 million is a welcome boost for the five Queensland communities and other Australian communities that the Prime Minister deemed fit to receive the grant,” he said.
“However, it’s absolutely devastating for the other nine Queensland communities that have also been left ravaged by the Queensland bushfires.
“Since the day the Prime Minister initially announced these $1 million grants – without any consultation with the states – we have been advocating for the other nine Queensland councils impacted by the Eastern and Southern bushfires to also receive the grant.
“I wrote directly to the Prime Minister to ask him to extend the $1 million to the additional communities and until now, there has been silence.
“Once again, the Prime Minister’s decision has been made with no engagement, no consultation and a complete lack of understanding of the impacts on Queensland communities.
“This is clearly a decision made by the Commonwealth in Canberra based on some desktop-derived formula.”
Mr Dick said the announcement shows a lack of compassion and does not take into account the impacts and recovery needs of other communities that have also been ravaged by the exact same bushfires.
“The Prime Minister regularly spruiks the importance of getting funding to devastated communities as quickly as possible, yet we are still waiting on a response to our request for $1.775 million for the clean-up and recovery of the historic Binna Burra Lodge that was destroyed in the bushfires.
“This red-tape hold up could mean further loses for the tourist destination, who may not be able to re-open for camping in time for the Easter holidays, one of the busiest periods for the iconic location.”
Mr Dick said Queensland has significant experience responding to natural disasters over the past 10 years.
“Providing $1 million grants to the other nine communities would have given them a welcome boost to deliver activities they deem priorities and not bound be the usual strict conditions imposed by the Commonwealth Government under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.
“We need all levels of government working together to help these communities but it seems we have the Commonwealth making decisions and the state and local governments left scratching our heads.
LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam said Queensland councils deserved equal treatment and a fair go.
“The Morrison Government should not be playing favourites with disaster-hit communities,” Mr Hallam said.
“Queenslanders deserve better than that.
“The Commonwealth collects 80 per cent of all taxes. It should be supporting all communities in their recovery, not just some.”
Mr Dick said the Queensland Government welcomes the additional funding for the five councils that had already received the grants.
“But we are devastated and confused by the Prime Minister’s decision to refuse to approve grants for the other nine Queensland councils that have been left to their own devices.
“The Queensland Government calls on the Prime Minister to reconsider his decision and help all Queensland’s bushfire impacted communities.”