Mayor’s ‘soggy’ Rocky fears about flood levee addressed
CLARITY had been provided to Rockhampton region mayor Margaret Strelow after she made a number of bombshell claims regarding the floundering South Rockhampton Flood Levee project.
In a post to social media on Tuesday morning, Mayor Strelow accused the state government’s Main Roads Department of avoiding its responsibility for floodproofing the Bruce Highway’s access into Rockhampton.
The mayor said TMR had removed the project from forward planning, and intended for Gladstone Road to be left to flood, along with two state schools, Hastings Deering and impacting a total of 3000 jobs and one and a half thousand pieces of land.
She said TMR was now looking at upgrading Gracemere’s Lawrie St and building a higher Ring Road to allow traffic to go around Rockhampton in times of flood, effectively destroying Council’s business case for the levee and leaving the city in a “soggy mess”.
A Transport and Main Roads spokesperson begged to differ, saying the South Rockhampton Flood Levee has not been removed from Transport and Main Roads’ forward planning program.
“In 2013, TMR provided a letter of support to Rockhampton Regional Council for the flood levee and that position has not changed,” the spokesperson said.
“TMR’s Rockhampton Ring Road project has factored the levee into its baseline concept design.
“The ring road will improve road safety and strengthen the region’s economy by improving freight efficiency, flood resilience, job opportunities and liveability.”
They said it would also improve connectivity to Rockhampton by increasing the number of access points to the city during a one-in-100-year flood event (Q100 level), and a high-level, north-south route for the Bruce Highway through Rockhampton.
“Improving connectivity will also strengthen employment, leisure and tourism precincts within Rockhampton and the wider region,” they said.
“The Yeppen North and Yeppen South bridges provide a Q100 link from the south into Rockhampton (city) via a diversion route on Upper Dawson Road, which is a local government road.
“The $35 million Lawrie Street Upgrade project, funded through the Queensland Economic Recovery Strategy: Unite and Recover for Queensland Jobs, will improve capacity through Gracemere by duplicating the existing road from two lanes to four lanes.”
The spokesperson said the state-controlled Gavial-Gracemere Road (Lawrie Street) and the Burnett Highway, were part of the existing Fitzroy Flooding Traffic Operational Plan.
“This plan is enacted during disruptive events to service traffic and freight travelling east-west from the Bruce and Capricorn highways,” they said.
“These detour routes have been in place since Cyclone Debbie in 2017.”
Levee’s cost blow outs
In her post, Cr Strelow took the opportunity to defend the rising cost of the levee project from $60 million to an estimated $189 million over the past two years.
“Yes, the price went up,” she said.
“Major projects go through various stages where designs are refined – and when this one was fully ‘done’ the engineers decided that it needed to be dirt to full height instead of being dirt to a certain height with sheeting on top.
“That did horrendous things to the price.”
Over the years, the Queensland Reconstruction Authority has worked closely with Rockhampton Regional Council to realise the levee project.
Their spokesperson said on July 16, RRC wrote to QRA and the Commonwealth advising them the new project cost estimate was more than $170 million.
In its letter council told them it was reducing its earlier $30 million public commitment to the project to $15 million, citing “council financial pressure”.
Council told them it had removed from scope and deferred for 3-5 years the building of a pump station ($10 million), reducing the ability to pump flood waters from within the levee.
“(They also made) requests to both the Commonwealth and state to commit an additional $52.5 million, taking each government’s commitment to $77.5 million,” the spokesperson said.
“QRA and the Commonwealth have worked with council on the details of its business case and the QRA will complete its review prior to providing a recommendation to government.”
Where to from here with the South Rockhampton Flood Levee?
Deputy Mayor Neil Fisher maintained that Council’s position hadn’t changed with regards to the levee remaining a priority project with Council’s contribution in its budget for this financial year.
“Council has the required planning approval from the State Government and a full set of tender ready documents and construction plans,” Cr Fisher said.
“In the last few weeks Council has again written to both the State and Federal Governments seeking additional funding required to deliver this critical project, and we are waiting for a response.
“The South Rockhampton Flood Levee is a shovel ready project that we can progress immediately if and when the funding becomes available.”
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said her government remained committed to the Rockhampton community and the project.
“We understand works on the Rockhampton Flood Levee project are being held up by a significant increase in cost, an issue the Rockhampton Council are working through with representatives of the Federal and State Governments,” Ms Landry said.
“I do not want to play politics with this project, and we have remained hopeful of seeing a pragmatic solution to the issues with this project.
“To my knowledge, the Federal Government has not received notification of the State Government removing support from the project and until that time, we intend to continue working with all parties to see what can be done in regards to this project, for the benefit of the community.”
She said the levee’s cost escalations were “problematic”, and the community needed to assurance its tax dollars were being spent in the most effective way possible.
“Regarding the Rockhampton Ring Road, that is the biggest commitment this region has seen and development works are, as I understand, about to kick off,” she said.
“This work will look at geotechnical investigations as well as flood modelling analysis with consideration to be given to deliver a Q100 route between Gracemere, the Rockhampton CBD and Parkhurst.
“These investigations will inform the detailed design of the Project, so it is premature to make assumptions on whether the road will be raised or exactly what flood impacts there will be until that work is undertaken thoroughly.”