Disaster relief delay could dent state budget
GLADSTONE ratepayers could face a financial nightmare unless the Federal Government addresses uncertainty surrounding the future of natural disaster relief funds.
The Local Government Association of Queensland and the State Government are calling on the Coalition and the ALP to give our region a fair go by reversing a decision on the allocation of more than $1.3 billion in Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangement payments.
Under the NDRRA program, the Commonwealth contributes 75% of the funds needed by councils to help their regions recover from natural disasters.
The state and territory governments pay the rest.
The 2015-16 allocation was to be paid to the Queensland Government by June 30.
However, the payment was split in two and delayed for 12 and 24 months because the Turnbull Government had concerns over the "eligibility" of some claims.
The move leaves a gaping hole in this year's Queensland Budget and is fostering uncertainty about whether or not the state will be refunded for disaster works down the track.
The state will receive $746.2m at the end of the 2016-17 financial year and a further $596m at the end of 2017-18.
NSW and Western Australia - both run by Liberal governments - are the only jurisdictions earmarked to receive the 2015-16 financial year reimbursements.
The Queensland Government has repaid Gladstone Regional Council the $73.2 million it spent since 2011 on flood-related reconstruction works.
But if a natural disaster strikes, it is likely the council will be forced to fix public infrastructure without a guarantee of getting its money back.
LGAQ president Margaret de Wit said regional, rural and remote Queenslanders would suffer as the decision hurt the "confidence" of councils and left them in the dark as to the NDRRA's future.
"This decision leaves councils with a lot of uncertainty about what might happen in the future," Cr de Wit said.
"We've got to have certainty when there is a disaster," Cr de Wit said.
"Regional and rural councils don't just have the money to repair the infrastructure.
"The work needs to be done quickly for a whole lot of reasons.
"If roads and bridges are washed away the council needs to get everything working again as quickly as possible so industry and commerce can continue."
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the "blatantly political decision" by the Turnbull government cast a shadow over the future of the NDRRA.
"The decision puts at risk any certainty surrounding future reimbursement of NDRRA claims and Queensland's ability to respond to future natural disaster events," Ms Trad said.
"We spent this money in good faith expecting that the Federal Government would follow through on their responsibilities and obligations under the NDRRA.
The Queensland Reconstruction Authority manages the state's NDRRA but payments are made to councils through government departments - for example the Department of Transport and Main Roads - depending on the claims.