Extra $50m in flood mitigation 'too little, too late' with state underwater

Jamieson Murphy
By Jamieson Murphy
Updated December 1 2021 - 12:18am, first published November 30 2021 - 9:00pm
INUNDATED: A number of cities and towns in NSW have experienced several days of flooding. Photo: Peter Hardin

A SECOND $50-million round of flood mitigation funding has been labelled "too little, too late", with construction yet to start on the first round of projects and large parts of the country underwater.

The federal government made the announcement as northern NSW battles severe flooding, while Queensland braces itself for more flash floods.

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In May this year, the government announced $50 million for 22 flood mitigation projects, however work is yet to start on any of the projects and the funding is yet to be signed off for many of them.

Emergency Response Minister Bridget McKenzie said the projects would be delivered by the state and territory governments, so was a process to go through to release the money.

"We've got agreements four of the jurisdictions and they've got their cash, the other four will have it by the 17 December," Senator McKenzie said.

"We're not holding it up at all. I would encourage all state and territory jurisdictions to get their skates on on this. Because as we've seen, when we don't have these projects in place that the impact is significant."

The flood mitigation money will come out of the $4.7 billion Emergency Response Fund (ERF) which was established two years ago.

Labor senator and shadow emergency response spokesperson Murray Watt said the nation was now in its third disaster season since the government announced the ERF and not a single project had been started.

"The Morrison Government has responded to floods across Queensland and NSW in the only way it knows how - with an announcement," Senator Watt said.

"The government hasn't even spent the last round of mitigation funding it announced, over six months ago, and now it's promising more. Announcements won't protect communities that are suffering from floods right now.

"When it comes to natural disasters, Scott Morrison is always too little, too late."

National Resiliency and Recovery Agency coordinator-general Shane Stone admitted natural disaster mitigation often "don't happen as quickly as we would like".

"In 1998, I was [Northern Territory] Chief Minister when Catherine flooded - it was devastating and that was all about the need for particular levees

I was pleased about three weeks ago, in a different capacity, to announce $9.8 million for the levy which they can start building - over 20 years later.

"It's a combination of reasons why these projects drift. So when it shouldn't believe that these things can be done overnight, they can't."

Mr Stone pointed out none of the recent flood mitigation projects were ever expected to be applied to the current disaster seasons.

"This is intergenerational, it will take years to deal with some of the situations that we've come to accept as normal," he said.

"There's a lot of engineering involved. You don't want to waste money, and you've got to take the community with you because communities do have a difference opinion about what works and what doesn't work. So it's not a quick process.

"We spend 97 per cent on cleaning up and three per cent on getting ready, and that's unacceptable. We need to flip it."

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Jamieson Murphy

Jamieson Murphy

National Rural Affairs reporter

National Rural Affairs reporter, focusing on rural politics and issues. Whisper g'day mate to me at jamieson.murphy@austcommunitymedia.com.au

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