O'Dowd hits back at Byrne's criticism of Category D funding
CATEGORY D has been given the green light for Central Queensland after Cyclone Marcia, but all three tiers of government are still bickering about the amount.
This morning, Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd has released a statement, responding to Queensland Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne's criticism of the Australian government's announcement of Category D funding for Central Queensland, imploring him to appreciate how the new money will help the region.
"Our government heard the concerns of residents in Central Queensland and we put forward nearly $30 million in Category D funding to assist with the recovery effort, and it would be wonderful if the state representatives appreciated that" Mr O'Dowd said.
"Bill doesn't seem to realise that this is a two-way street, and that it's up to the Queensland government to come to the party and start contributing positively to getting Central Queensland back on its feet."
Mr Byrne, in a prepared statement (click here to read), remarked that several redevelopment projects could not go ahead under the current funding arrangements, but Mr O'Dowd says that the state agriculture minister is confused about the purpose of Category D funding.
"He's crying about all of the projects that won't go ahead under the current disaster recovery assistance packages, but these payments have one purpose - to help with rebuilding communities after natural disasters," Mr O'Dowd said.
"The Queensland government knows that this funding arrangement cannot be used as a backdoor method to fund unrelated projects, and all of the projects Bill has mentioned can best be described as tourism initiatives.
"And as great as tourism is for the region, there are other, more appropriate funding mechanisms in place to achieve these projects."
Monday's announcement of a $27.75 million recovery funding package was in addition to comprehensive disaster assistance that has already been made available to help affected Queenslanders under the NDRRA.
Current NDRRA funding includes emergency and recovery support for affected individuals, funding for local council and state agencies to rebuild damaged infrastructure, and a $5.1 million Community Recovery Fund to restore social networks and build community resilience throughout the recovery process.
Mr O'Dowd says that he pushed hard to receive Category D funding for local governments in the Flynn electorate, and has received positive feedback.
"All of the local councils in Flynn have been anxious about whether we would get Category D assistance, so they are relieved to finally have the announcement," he said.
"They aren't going to sit there and criticise the funding arrangements because they're grateful that we've been able to help them this far."
The Abbott Government has short-changed cyclone-affected Central Queensland, refusing to fund its fair share of Category D assistance under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).
Member for Rockhampton Bill Byrne MP said the Queensland Government offered to fund Category D assistance 50/50 with the Commonwealth to help communities hardest hit by Cyclone Marcia.
"After a thorough assessment of the damage and consultation with local councils, the Queensland Government requested $198.5 million of Category D funding from the Federal Government," Mr Byrne said.
"Today the Abbott Government has shown its true colours when it comes to supporting regional Queensland, approving a measly $27.75 million - nothing compared to the $198.5 million needed to get Central Queensland back on its feet.
"It's a real slap in the face to local families and businesses that had their lives torn apart by an extreme natural disaster.
"The Abbott Government is essentially telling Central Queenslanders they're on their own."
Mr Byrne said without the full Category D assistance, major projects - including the Rockhampton Riverbank Reconstruction and the Yeppoon Foreshore Revitalisation Project - would not go ahead.
"Category D assistance is a safety net to support communities facing extraordinary recovery costs following a natural disaster and a lifeline for the local economy that's still doing it tough," Mr Byrne said.
"In this case, the Rockhampton and Livingstone Councils requested $78.5 million under Category D for iconic projects, but the Commonwealth has approved not one single dollar.
"These projects would not only provide a much needed boost to the local economy - hit hard by Marcia - but also ensure the community is more resilient should another natural disaster strike.
"These types of requests are not unprecedented with the use of Category D funding approved for projects such as the Townsville foreshore, Grantham relocation, and the Cardwell foreshore following previous disasters."
Mr Byrne said the remainder of the funding requested was targeted at assisting the agricultural industry, repairing extensive environmental damage, building more resilient infrastructure and the economic recovery of key ports.
"The response from the Abbott Government is unacceptable to the Queensland Government and it is unacceptable to Queenslanders."