I'm a political pawn: Grazier claims levee queries unanswered
PORT Curtis grazier Matthew Neale has spoken out amidst a "tit-for-tat" war of words over the South Rockhampton Flood Levee.
Yesterday, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry issued a lengthy, detailed release which outlined her position on the $60 million flood mitigation project, which claimed it would be "irresponsible" to fund it in its current state and until adequate consultation with landowners had taken place.
Ms Landry said she had the full support of both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to help find the appropriate funding channel when the project meets "minimum legislative requirements", and she remained committed to finding the "best possible solution".
Mr Neale's agricultural investment, his livelihood, is among the 28-plus properties identified for acquisition in the Environmental Summary Report.
As his future remains uncertain, and his questions unanswered, Mr Neale said he is starting to feel like a "pawn" in a political game.
Mr Neale claims he first initiated contact with the Rockhampton Regional Council when a neighbour alerted him to a media opportunity nearby in May; Ms Landry's office contacted him afterwards.
He was then invited to a meet with councillor Rose Swadling and engineers, but claims despite their promises, he never received the detailed plans which outlined the impact on his property.
"Nobody is able to give me an answer about my property, about what plans are in place or what right I have over my own land, let alone the loss of income," he said.
"I am devastated and appalled - if they have budgeted for land acquisitions as informed during the forum, then they must know what they are going to offer landholders. Why aren't they telling us?"
Despite owning a residential Depot Hill property within the levee boundary, Mr Neale opposes the project.
He purchased the land because it was ideal for running cattle, and floods brought natural nutrients to his property.
He said should land acquisitions be the way forward, he was not confident council would pay "top dollar" for his property, which he conceded held low land value.
"It's what the land makes for me business wise, and that's where we will get hurt I believe if they go through with it," he said.
Mr Neale said he was at a loss as to how he would continue cattle operations with a 25m wide, 400m wall just outside the property and culverts running through his land.
"It's detail that I haven't received, and the detail is how are they going to dig up my property? And if they do do that am I still able to run cattle?" he asked.
"When you look at the maps they send ... there's no detail.
"What about the Port Curtis area, my catchment area. How are they going to run the culverts through?"
Mayor Margaret Strelow assured Mr Neale would get his answers, but accused Ms Landry of "changing the topic".
"The allegation that I refuted was the following: 'Who's been out to talk to him? No one. It is an absolute disgrace'," Cr Strelow said.
"Even her own release proves the lie in this statement.
"She needs to apologise or to correct her statement.
"I am not willing to use Mr Neale as a pawn in what is obviously now a political argument.
"We will contact Mr Neale directly now that the additional survey that we commissioned to allow us to answer his questions has been completed."