MP Bill Byrne, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Rockhampton mayor Margaret Strelow
MP Bill Byrne, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Rockhampton mayor Margaret Strelow Amber Hooker

Premier takes a stand on South Rocky Levee Bank

UPDATE: ROCKHAMPTON MP Bill Byrne has said the comments he made on Sky News in early April were taken out of context.

He stood by the comments, but said they were made while he was working behind the scenes to secure the premier's support for the South Rockhampton Flood Levee.

Mr Byrne said he made a habit of never going hard on a project until he knew it could succeed and things had changed since the April 6 interview.

"I refuse to build an expectation in the community that is ultimately dashed,” he said.

"I only make very strong supportive statements in unequivocal terms when I know I can deliver it.

"That was a point in time before I had an absolute commitment to deliver. That commitment materialised on the premier's visit.”

Mr Byrne said he had never denigrated the project, but had in the past questioned the level of community support.

However, he is now confident the project has majority support from people within his Rockhampton electorate.

INITIAL: PREMIER Annastacia Palaszczuk has urged Rockhampton residents to fight the Federal Government for future flood protection, saying the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister steadfastly refused to support the levee at a meeting in Hobart on Thursday night.

She resolved to stand with Rockhampton Regional Council to get the Federal Government to deliver the South Rockhampton Flood Levee.

"Barnaby Joyce was happy to jump in boats and have beers at the Fitzroy Hotel for the TV cameras in the recent flood, but he is not prepared to deliver flood protection for more Rockhampton residents,” Ms Palazsczuk said.

Rochampton MP Bill Byrne questioned the objectivity of Capricornia MP Michelle Landry's survey canvassing public support and said she needed to "get with the program and let the people of Rockhampton get on with it”.

"(Federal Member for Capricornia) Michelle Landry has never supported this proposal and has looked for every possible excuse to subvert or redirect the idea.”

"Her nonsense poll will never be able to claim objectivity. It is an example of 'don't ask the question unless you know the answer'.”

Ms Landry yesterday insisted there was nothing arrogant about listening.

"Why is the Premier of Queensland so afraid to let the people of Rockhampton have a voice on this?” she said. "They have already committed the funds, so the concerns of the people don't seem to matter to them either way.

"The Federal Coalition has said repeatedly that we will support the levee when we know there is community support and when council can show it has actually discussed the project with negatively impacted landholders.”

Final alignment map for the South Rockhampton Flood Levee reveals exactly where will stay dry, and where potential water will be because of the levee.
Final alignment map for the South Rockhampton Flood Levee reveals exactly where will stay dry, and where potential water will be because of the levee. Rockhampton Regional Council

Ms Landry said the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister understood the levee was a contentious issue, but had reiterated their support for flood mitigation.

"But (we) also want to make sure that we get it right and that we are doing what the people want,” she said.

A spokesman from the Prime Minister's office yesterday pointed to comments made by Mr Turnbull during his recent visit to Rockhampton.

"If there is clear, strong support from the community, then we would certainly participate in supporting the construction of the levee,” he said at the time.

"But it is very important that it comes with strong community support.

"This is what Michelle (Landry) is seeking to do. I mean she doesn't gauge the views of the people of Rockhampton from Brisbane, or Canberra, she's here.”

After the 2017 flood, Rockhampton MP Bill Byrne said, "according to Gold Logie winner Karl Stefanovic - an ex Rocky reporter - this is a no-brainer. I couldn't agree more.”

However he told Sky News on April 6 he had always said he wasn't going to support something "when the vast majority of my community don't want it”.

"It is up to the community to make sure their views are known and if there is that level of support and it's got merit, then we'll see what we can do about it.

"As I said right from the start, there's merit in the proposal but it needs to be advanced further than where it is presently ... there are a lot of things that need to be agreed.”

Ms Landry said the council was asked to be part of the survey but the mayor "flatly refused”.

Mayor Margaret Strelow said the council paid for an independent poll in 2014, which showed support for the levee.

"As you know this result was challenged,” she said.

"When the levee conversation started again recently, we suggested that Michelle (Landry) should arrange this one herself so that she would have confidence in the result.

"We believed that a professional poll would be conducted with professional pollsters.

"The meeting ended amicably.”

Ms Palaszczuk said she requested Mr Turnbull, a month ago, to jointly fund a $220 million additional infrastructure projects, including the South Rockhampton Flood Levee, following Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

The Turnbull Government has yet to agree to the proposal to be made under the Natural Disaster Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) Category D declaration.

A similar Category D package was agreed to by the Premier and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott following Tropical Cyclone Marcia in 2015.

Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed comments from Rockhampton MP Bill Byrne to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.



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