AS Queensland Premier Anna Bligh foreshadowed a reconstruction effort of post-war proportions to rebuild the flood-ravaged state, her Recovery Taskforce chief has vowed - “Emerald will not be forgotten”.
Major General Mick Slater said Wednesday was the first of many visits to enable a plan to be tailored to the Central Highlands’ individual needs as residents, rural producers and council all begin the long road back from a record-breaking flood.
Maj Gen Slater readily admitted he was now facing a Herculian task as the scope of the disaster kept spreading.
“Forty-eight hours ago, the rebuilding as a long-term task was at least comprehensible, now I’m not so sure it’s as easily done,” he said as deathly flash-flooding devastated Toowoomba, the Lockyer Valley, and flood peaks loomed in Ipswich and Brisbane.
“We’re not going to know until the waters go down what the damage is and what has to be done.
“But I’m the guy working with the Premier to ensure Queensland gets back on its feet as smoothly and as painlessly as possible.”
With Federal Minister Assisting the Queensland Flood Recovery, Joe Ludwig, and State Main Roads Minister Craig Wallace in tow, Maj Gen Slater heard the extent of localised flood damage, starting with an estimated $100 million to the Central Highlands’ largely unsealed road network, and the need to raise bridges and flood-proof escape routes for Emerald and Rolleston.
The Panorama Bridge on the Dawson Highway has suffered unprecedented damage compared to 2008, and is very unsafe at this time, the meeting heard.
Rail spur lines to Rolleston and Minerva mines have been severely damaged.
Extensive social issues were starting to emerge, including job losses at short notice, skyrocketing rents, the loss of 100 motel units and general angst in the community were also acknowledged.
“That’s why we’re here, because you are not forgotten. This is a show of force… and I think people realise rural communities like Emerald cannot bounce back that quickly and it is going to take a sustained effort,” Maj Gen Slater said.
He promised Emerald would not slip off the reconstruction radar.
“I’m here to make sure that does not happen, and I know the Premier and her colleagues are very focused on the whole area which is why I’m here with a Federal Minister and a State Minister,” he said. “I’m the guy whose job it is to come up with a plan to fix it…it’s an enormous task.
“We’re not into short-term fixes – they’re going to fall over a few years down the track.
“We’re not looking back to the past… we need to be more resilient this time.”
Maj Gen Slater acknowledged he had never witnessed such a rolling natural disaster as the floods which have engulfed Queensland, region by region.
“I’ve been through a big fire, in the 1974 floods and quite a number of bad cyclones, and this is the largest scale natural disaster I have ever seen,” he said.
“There are some areas on the road to recovery, unfortunately some areas still about to see their worst days, and in some places in this state, the real wet season isn’t due to start officially for another two weeks.”
“We’re not into short-term fixes – they’re going to fall over a few years down the track.”
Maj Gen Slater
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