Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry has backed her claim that funding the South Rockhampton Flood Levee in its current state is irresponsible, and goes against State Government legislation, until adequate consultation has taken place with landowners.
“Approving funding for the levee prior to submission of a Development Application contradicts the Labor Government’s own legislation, implemented in 2011 to regulate the construction of levee banks,” Ms Landry said.
“There is very clear legislation in place that requires code and impact assessment for Category 3 levees – including the need to consult with landholders and show that the levee does not result in an unacceptable impact on people, property or the environment.
“Both the state government and Mayor have missed a vital step in an effort to bypass legislation.
“I had hoped that those pushing for me to back the levee would do the right thing by property owners, and follow the legal process as well.
“The reality is that the project is nowhere near ready – clearly the environmental concerns need to be addressed through an EIS as per the Environmental Summary, land acquisition and compensation discussions have not begun and the project has not been approved by the State Government under their own planning legislation.”
The Labor Government has gone on the attack of the Federal Member saying that the project should have been approved through Category D funding.
"There has never been a suggestion from the Federal Government that the South Rockhampton Flood Levee was eligible for Category D funding,” Ms Landry said.
“Even if the Development Application had been approved, Category D funding is for recovery and betterment, not to be used as a slush fund to develop new projects.
“The Mayor and Member for Rockhampton are well aware of this and know there are other avenues to apply for funding – but also know there are legal requirements for such a project.
“Council has had three years to work through these important steps, I can only assume that their inaction to date has been an irresponsible attempt to side step land acquisition and compensation for the people in Alton Downs, West Rockhampton and Port Curtis.”
Ms Landry said she would continue to work with colleagues to find the best solution, with the full support of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.
“I have had a number of discussions with both the PM and DPM and they have given full support to assist in finding the appropriate channel for funding when the project meets its minimum legislative requirements,” she said.
Ms Landry has urged Council to sort out what they are going to do with acquisitions for the 28 plus properties identified in the Environmental Summary Report for acquisition, and to be clear about what compensation will be offered to the people of West Rockhampton, Alton Downs and Port Curtis who will be impacted by afflux if the project goes ahead.
“I have spoken directly to many of them, and it is only through media that they have heard of the proposed acquisitions.
“I find it quite insane that they are being asked to contribute, through their rates, for the cost of devaluing their own properties.”
One of these property owners, Mr Matthew Neale, says that the first discussion he was able to have with Council only eventuated because he took it upon himself to attend the media conference on May 5 after being notified by another landholder.
“My property, an agricultural investment that provides my livelihood, is proposed to become the catchment. I honestly don’t know how I will be able to continue cattle operations with a 25 metre wide 400 metre wall just outside the property and culverts running through my land, that won’t be able to dry out,” Mr Neale said.
“I purchased this land because it was ideal for running cattle, now I’m not sure what the future holds as I can’t get an answer from Council.
“I heard through a neighbour, whose cattle operations will also be impacted, that the Mayor was doing a media conference in the area - this was the first time I was able to speak to anyone about the plans. My neighbours have been trying to do the same, only to be blocked by the Mayor on Facebook.
“Cr Swadling then invited me to a meeting where an engineer walked me through the plans – the same existing report we have been hearing about since April. Nobody is able to give me an answer about my property, about what plans are in place or what right I have over my own land, let alone the loss of income.
“I am devastated and appalled – if they have budgeted for land acquisitions as informed during the forum, then they must know what they are going to offer landholders. Why aren’t they telling us?
Ms Landry said she remains committed to finding the best possible solution.
“I also want to stress that this is not the end of the road for flood mitigation.
“We will continue to find the best solution for protecting the airport and businesses on Gladstone Road and support responsible flood mitigation funding applications.
“The reality is that even with the South Rockhampton Levee there will still be significant clean-up costs after a flood event and considerable residual risks. The engineers have been very clear about this and I think that explains why only 33% of the community support it."
Guidelines for Category 3 Levee Approvals:
On State Government Legislation regarding levee construction
On the State Government guide to the impact of flood levees