Queensland government proposes third wave of funding for flood victims worth three-quarters of a billion dollars
Deputy Premier Steven Miles says the Queensland government has requested sign-off from the federal government on a $771-million flood relief package.
- The funding package is designed to prevent thousands of south-east Queensland homes from falling victim to flooding next time it occurs
- It would be a joint funding effort with the federal government, which still needs to approve the package
- Queensland’s Deputy Premier called on the Commonwealth to match the hardship payments received by NSW flood victims
He said the government had assessed 6,800 homes as having some kind of damage as a result of the flooding.
Under the plan, grants of up to $50,000 will be available to retrofit 5,500 flood-affected homes, while grants of up to $100,000 will be on offer to raise 1,000 homes.
Meanwhile, $350 million will be dedicated to buying back up to 500 homes.
“This third package has three key elements,” Mr Miles said.
“The first is what we think will be one of the biggest residential resilience recovery projects ever certainly [undertaken] in Australia and possibly even the world.
“We think this is a world-leading initiative to ensure that we aren’t just building back but that we don’t put residents back into homes that will flood again.
“It builds on smaller programs that we’ve had in conjunction with local governments after previous disasters, including here in the Brisbane City Council local government area, so it’ll be administered by the Public Works Department, working with local councils, depending on their capabilities, retrofitting, raising or buying back.
“Once we have confirmation of support for this program from the Commonwealth, further work will be done to develop the guidelines and application process and so we just ask people to bear with us as we work through those details.”
Mr Miles said the Premier had also asked the Prime Minister to match the hardship payments New South Wales flood victims are receiving.
That’s currently thousands of dollars more available to New South Wales residents than Queensland residents.
“There is no argument or justification for the differential application of those hardship payments and so we would ask the Prime Minister to also ensure that Queensland flood victims get the same support as New South Wales flood victims.”
Mr Miles said the second part of the package involved hiking the Structural Assistance Grants from $14,684 to $50,000, at a cost of $38 million.
“These are the up-front grants to get people back into their homes to make them safe and liveable,” he said.
A further $30 million will be put towards supporting local government and helping with clean-up costs.
“Embedded in this program is funding for communications and information as well as a new flood information portal that will assist residents, insurers, purchasers, to see exactly what the flooding risks are in different properties, different parts of the city.”
He added this was the third but not final package.
Chief executive of Suncorp, Steven Johnston, said the floods were the biggest event in the insurer’s history and labelled the announcement a “game changer”.
“As I left this morning, we’d had 38,000 claims to this event, we expect to see 45,000 claims or above. This is a huge event,” Mr Johnston said.
“We’ve been talking about a four-point plan, building better public infrastructure, better private, resilient infrastructure, building back better, and making changes to planning rules to make sure that these things don’t happen again, what’s happened in the past has happened.
“We’ve got to draw a line under that and we’ve got to move forward.”
Major General Jake Elwood, the man coordinating Queensland’s flood clean-up, says most properties impacted by flooding had been previously inundated.
“And the other thing that has really struck me is that I would say that, well and truly, [for] the bulk of the people I’ve spoken to, this was not the first flood they have faced.
“So they have faced two, three, sometimes four floods. And, so, it really … does emphasise the need for us to look at resilience, both from an infrastructure but also from a people perspective.”
‘Having to live in a hovel for weeks’
Local resident Col Beardmore angrily confronted the Deputy Premier shortly after the press conference.
He said government assistance needed to be delivered more quickly.
“We don’t want the insurance company to pay to fix this stuff again, when there’s possibly a grant that actually could change the style or shape of the building such that when the next flood comes in, and there will be one, it’s not as bad so we can just wash it out and get on with life,” Mr Beardmore said.
“This nonsense of having to live in a hovel for weeks, camping in your house because the electricity is only half on. You can’t go in certain areas because it’s not safe. This is not the way to live.”
Gympie Mayor Glen Hartwig said the Deputy Premier’s announcement was welcome, but he was looking forward to more detail on exactly how the grants would apply.
“Sometimes retrofitting or raising a home may not be the solution … Buying out and allocating the land for some other purpose may be a better option.
“I think we had 500 or 600 homes affected and inspected for water inundation — a number of those have been condemned and there are quite a significant number with major damage.”
Mr Hartwig said the state government’s proposal to buy back 500 flood affected homes across the state would cover residents of the Gympie region, who were also devastated by flooding in January.
“I think there are some homes in the Gympie region that would definitely benefit from that, and that land could be utilised for parks or other public uses,” he said.