WATCH: Coast flooding in pics as funding debate heats up

Storm damage across the Sunshine Coast: Footage taken by Patrick Williams on his journey around a flood devastated Sunshine Coast on January 27, 2013.
Storm damage across the Sunshine Coast: Footage taken by Patrick Williams on his journey around a flood devastated Sunshine Coast on January 27, 2013.

WHILE the State, Federal and local governments will have to work through a bunfight over disaster relief and recovery funding, the region's top SES leader spoke about the approach taken by the volunteer group.

"Essentially the principle that drives our operations is that we look to what activities, what actions are necessary, either to protect life, property or the environment," North Coast Region SES regional manager Merrick Ilett said.

Merrick Ilett.
North Coast Region SES regional manager Merrick Ilett. Contributed

"What it costs and who pays for it is a secondary consideration that works itself out in the aftermath."

Mr Ilett said the SES looked to capture its costs where possible during operations in order to claim any eligible costs through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, most of the payment made through the NDRRA back to governments was for repair work for large-scale infrastructure damage.

"A lot of the costs that are claimable are really claimable by local governments by restoration works and urgent sort of works to commence recovery in that response phase to emergencies," he said.

FLASHBACK: Coast flooding from January, 2015 in pictures

"It doesn't concern us as to whether we do or don't do things in terms of recovering our costs... it's all about putting resources to where they're required."

He said projects like bridge repair or sewage system restoration took up most of "the millions" of NDRRA funding, and noted Queensland usually took the lion's share of the funding due to the often widespread effects of natural disasters in the state.

"Some operational costs in events we can claim in NDRRA," Mr Ilett said.

He said most of the SES work undertaken was in immediate, first-response efforts to natural disasters, not the longer-term recovery efforts that had to be undertaken by Local and State Governments in the days, weeks and months following disasters.

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Mr Ilett said the State and local communities were already getting great value out of the SES, given most of the service members were volunteers donating their time in often dire situations.

The issue raised itself after Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt called on the Federal Government to honour more than $1 billion in NDRRA payments the State Government claim are owed to it by the Federal Government.

The outstanding payments date back to 2014/15, and Mr Pitt and the Palaszczuk Government last week flagged concerns about the future capacity to respond to and recover from natural disasters in the state if the funding was not forthcoming.


THE ability of emergency services to cope with a natural disaster on the Sunshine Coast could be jeopardised by a Federal Government Budget decision.

The Palaszczuk Government has been left reeling after $1.2 billion in Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements payments owed to the State were delayed.

They will now be repaid over the next two financial years, despite being due to be settled by June 30 this year.

Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan is investigating allegedly false claims lodged by Queensland - allegations rejected by the State Government, and concerns are rising over where it leaves the capacity for support in the event of another natural disaster.

The situation has become so dire, State Treasurer Curtis Pitt has called on the sitting Coast members to lobby for the funding to be honoured to cover payments made by the State Government dating back to 2014/15.

"The decision to delay more than $1 billion in payments for at least two years puts at risk any certainty surrounding future reimbursement of NDRRA claims and Queensland's ability to respond to future natural disaster events on the Sunshine Coast," Mr Pitt said.

"There is no question that this money has been spent on rebuilding vital community infrastructure across our state and helped communities rebuild after catastrophic disasters."

The Local Government Association of Queensland has also raised concerns that a failure by the Federal Government to repay the money would lead to a deficit in the next State Budget, putting pressure on local councils and their ability to respond to disasters.

The Treasurer admitted failure to be reimbursed would impact on the surplus previously forecast in the 2015-16 Budget by the Palaszczuk Government.

"Our current disaster recovery claim was submitted ahead of schedule, and we were expecting to be paid the outstanding $1 billion in 2015-16, as was indicated in the Turnbull Government's federal Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook published in December," Mr Pitt said.

"Rebuilding after a natural disaster in Australia is based on certainty of reimbursement from the Commonwealth, which enables councils and state government authorities to start work immediately after a disaster event."

A motion was passed in State Parliament last week, enabling Deputy Premier Jackie Trad to lobby the Federal Government to honour the payments by the end of June.

A Sunshine Coast Council spokesman said the council was yet to receive any notification from a State or Federal level that disaster relief funding would be withdrawn, but said any funding cut would also have huge impacts on the council's budget.

"The cost of Sunshine Coast Council's disaster coordination efforts vary greatly each year," the spokesman said.

"It depends on how many disaster events we have in our region, the severity and duration of the events, the actual amount and cost of damage caused by the events, and how much of our region is actually affected. 

"This could very easily range from thousands of dollars to millions."

The spokesman said any cut to disaster funding would see a re-allocation of council funds, taking money away from scheduled infrastructure projects promised to communities.