A FEAR of larger and more frequent flooding has motivated leaders from multiple inundated Gulf shires to travel to Federal Parliament this week to plead for critical support needed to prepare for “the next big one.”
As Doomadgee, Burketown and Normanton begin recovery and repair efforts following record rainfall and more than three months of isolation, their leaders say millions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure upgrades are needed to improve the region’s resilience against natural disasters.
In a joint pitch, Doomadgee Aboriginal Shire Council CEO Troy Fraser, Burke Shire Mayor Ernie Camp, and Carpentaria Shire (Normanton) Mayor Jack Bawden met with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Canberra this week alongside Kennedy MP Bob Katter, calling for more than $75 million worth of upgrades towards low rate-payer base Gulf communities.
They say the funding is needed to raise crossings at Running Creek, Barkly Creek and Brookdale Invert by 1.5m to significantly reduce the period roads were cut off between Burke Shire and Doomadgee and Mount Isa ($25 million), and raise the bridges at Nicolson River and Gregory River.
Cr Camp said while flood each year in the Gulf was expected, he said basic road upgrades could significantly reduce period each town was isolated.
“We’re not asking for a multi-lane highway, we just want some upgrades to roads so instead of being cut off for three months, we could reduce that to a week or two weeks,” Cr Camp said.
Each delegate also presented to the government, their shire-specific needs for future disaster resilience.
Mr Fraser called for the construction a $5 million disaster evacuation centre for Doomadgee which is also in the path of tropical cyclones.
“Some houses were inundated due to backed up storm water drains. As many in the community sleep on mattresses on the floor, their bedding became wet and they required emergency shelter,” he said.
“These families had no purpose built evacuation facility to go to.”
Mr Fraser also requested $9 million for upgrades to his town’s waste, sewerage and storm water infrastructure and $3 million for better flood resistance for the region’s outstations which house about 60 people.
Cr Camp called for $12 million to establish a new waste transfer station with current landfill causing environmental issues with nearby rivers flowing into the Gulf of Carpentaria.
He also requested $10 million to raise the Burketown airstrip which was flooded and inaccessible during the flooding, as well as $7 million for a microgrid at Gregory.
“There is no distributed power network in Gregory or the Indigenous community of Bidunggu. We want to create a renewable microgrid to remove each resident and business having a stand-alone power system, powered mostly by diesel generation,” Mr Camp said.
“In the lead up and during the 2023 floods the phone system failed at Gregory, caused by the self-contained power unit failing at the Telstra tower.”
Mr Katter who travelled to the Gulf twice in recent weeks said it was “scary” to see the affects of three months of isolation.
“We’ve been told the shelves in the supermarket are just empty at Doomadgee, there’s nothing there,” Mr Katter said.
“All they’re flying in is the absolute essentials, well you go to the supermarket, and you see all the shelves empty, it’s scary. And these people have gone without for three months.
“If nothing else, there is a necessity that those bridges and access roads be raised so this doesn’t happen again.
“There was millions given to Julia Creek and the Midwest following the 2019 floods, but we haven’t gotten any commitments from anyone this time,” he said.
Source: Katter Australia Party
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