Three central western shires – Barcaldine, Longreach and Winton – will receive disaster assistance to help them recover from the effects of recent flooding, along with the north west local government areas of Mount Isa, Cloncurry, McKinlay, Richmond and Flinders.
Assistance is being provided through the jointly funded Commonwealth-state Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.
The announcement came midway through state Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford’s inspection of damage in the Mount Isa, Cloncurry and Winton regions on Wednesday and Thursday.
The minister met with mayors in each community to receive feedback on the state’s response to the various flood emergencies, and to discuss joint arrangements to help get those areas back on their feet as soon as possible.
“There are challenges – there will be tens of millions of dollars worth of damage, easy,” he said. “Looking at some roads today gives you an idea of the force of the water across them.”
The significant rainfall and flooding event disrupted mining and pastoral operations, and impacted the rail network.
The NDRRA declaration means councils can confidently spend money on repairs, knowing that expenses will be covered without their ratepayers being out of pocket.
Mr Crawford said the declaration in the north and central west was unlikely to include personal hardship funding, as it was only public infrastructure that had been damaged.
Cloncurry mayor, Greg Campbell, said it had been great to have the minister see firsthand the infrastructure damage to roads, crossings and properties from the rain at the beginning of March.
“While the rain was most welcome, much infrastructure, including public and private roads, fences and dams experienced some form of damage, contributing to a high restoration bill,” Cr Campbell said. “To have this flood event recognised by the state will assist in the recovery and take a huge burden off the community already impacted by days of isolation.”
Under NDRRA provisions, payments are usually made to restore assets to their previous state.
Mr Crawford said there had been conversations around resilience funding, or being able to spend more in the reconstruction phase to improve flood immunity, but he couldn’t say whether it was part of the current activation.
“It’s important that councils feed in their ideas on building higher and stronger though,” he said. “There are some quite strong cases where a river floods year after year.”
The immediate priority, Mr Crawford said, was to keep properties and communities still isolated by floodwaters safe.
“Some properties have their own helicopters and are organising their own resupply, but there are still challenges.
“There are issues with diesel in a few places – I believe they are planning to access some communities with a B double to resupply them.”