Levee funding frustration as progress stalls
ROCKHAMPTON Mayor Margaret Strelow has taken to social media to express "extreme disappointment" with the stalled political progress towards funding the South Rockhampton flood levee.
However, she has committed to continue the development application process and start initial works for the project for which council had budgeted $1.5 million this financial year.
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry posted a video on Facebook on Monday, listing some of the reasons why she believed the levee bank was not ready to go.
Ms Landry said a lack of consultation with affected landholders and the failure to advance an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) for the project influenced her position.
"My position on this has not changed and I have attempted at every step to encourage council to follow the correct procedure," she said.
"I have said from the beginning that land acquisitions and consultation need to take place before the levee would be considered.
"The land acquisition and consultation is a compulsory step according to the State Government's own legislation."
Ms Landry said it was irresponsible for any level of government to fund the $60m project until the basic legislative requirements were met.
"I have called on council to undertake this consultation since April 6 and my stance has not changed," she said.
Cr Strelow still believed the project was the right way forward, however, has conceded it might not happen any time soon.
"We will continue with the development application process and corridor acquisition as outlined in our budget and get things ready for next time," she told The Morning Bulletin yesterday.
"Once the development is formally approved we will have four or five years to do the work.
"We will then do the main drain work and valves etc as scheduled (18/19 Council budget) which is the first part of the project and is useful as a standalone project too."
On Facebook, Cr Strelow said: "Michelle Landry is now saying she didn't fight for our levee because we are still going through our Development Application etc."
"If Michelle had said at any stage that she would back the project we would have started formal negotiations and applications immediately, we would have moved forward on her promise," she said.
"If Michelle would commit to funding once the applications are complete, we would be delighted.
"All property owners were consulted three years ago and nothing eventuated so we don't want to drop it again without completing at least the formal processes."
Cr Strelow said most major government infrastructure projects gained financial commitment prior to the project resolving property acquisitions and detailed technical issues.
"Indeed Michelle had committed $7m towards the Riverbank Development prior to our purchase of the site or receiving all approvals," she said.
"When the State Government pledged us their $15m for the river front after (Cyclone) Marcia we didn't even have a design.
"Money can be committed before planning processes are completed, in fact it's common.
"Payments are usually staged during later financial years anyway."
Ms Landry responded to the Mayor's comments regarding the funding application for the Riverbank project saying it was submitted as a 'redevelopment' not a 'development' and if she was trying to say that it was otherwise, then perhaps a review needed to be undertaken to see if council was in breach.
"The 'site' was not privately owned land - so the negotiations only had to take place with the government," Ms Landry said.
"There was no actual 'material change of use' for the riverbank, which makes the approval process a lot simpler.
"That's a very different scenario from acquiring land from over 28 different landholders.
"Levee constructions also require the consultation because of afflux - the water has to redirect somewhere and in this case that 'somewhere' is West Rockhampton, Alton Downs and Port Curtis."
Mayor Strelow said none of the alternative funding options suggested by Ms Landry allowed the same amount of money needed for the levee's construction and usually forced council to match funding 50/50.
She said although the project didn't have unanimous support, the majority of residents were in favour of the levee and Rockhampton was missing a "once in a generation chance" to reshape its future and image.