Aerial shots of the Warwick region in flood on January 11, 2011.
Aerial shots of the Warwick region in flood on January 11, 2011. John Towells, pilot Peter Lindores

Flood repair funds fail to flow

MORE than $40 million in federal and state flood-damage repair funding has still not been paid out to the Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC), 14 months after the devastating 2010-2011 events.

A report to councillors yesterday showed the SDRC has so far received $7.35 million in disaster funds out of a total damage bill of $47.8m, and funding applications for more than 20 projects in the region are yet to be sent to the Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA).

The council has outsourced the QRA paperwork to consultants, with the report showing no application has yet been made for projects costing well over $30m.

The projects - which will almost all be done by outside contractors - are mainly repairs to roads which went under in the December 2010 and January 2011 floods, but also include bridges and water and sewerage assets.

The report comes as council counts the cost of using its own day labour to do repairs around the region, with the bill now at $3.2 million of ratepayer dollars which is not eligible for QRA funding.

Yesterday's report shows that out of 53 projects only 12 have so far been approved and funded, with 15 waiting on an answer and 26 not applied for.

Engineering Services director Peter See yesterday fielded questions from councillors, saying he was confident everything would be approved by the end of May.

He did concede that money already paid to council for flood works could run out before further approvals were given.

The applications are completed and sent to the QRA by external consultants Local Government Infrastructure Services (LGIS), who in turn subcontract the work to engineering firm Aurecon.

Mayor Ron Bellingham yesterday defended the QRA funding process, saying it was "complex".

"Before you sign on that dotted line you have got to be sure that all of the information needed to assess a project for funding is there and is correct," he said.

"It is simply beyond the capacity of council staff to manage the paperwork.

"We have a very good relationship with the QRA and applications have been dealt with promptly."

Cr Bellingham repeated earlier comments about council day labour not qualifying for QRA support, saying the $3.2 million council had so far paid to use its own crews was "a significant impost to ratepayers".

The QRA funding is 75 per cent federal money and 25% state, under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements put in place after the Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi.

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