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GOING INTO BAT FOR DAY LABOUR

The LGAQ and several councils hit by Tropical Cyclone Marcia last week are redoubling efforts to convince the Federal Government to ensure councils are able to claim back the costs of using their own staff for recovery and restoration work following natural disasters.

The destruction and dislocation caused by TC Marcia has forced councils to get their workers out into the field rapidly to assess impacts on council assets.

However, the continued prohibition on using council “day labour” under natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements has led to rising fear among councils affected as to how much their communities will have to spend to get back on their feet.

North Burnett Mayor Don Waugh said: “At the moment Council is needing to put staff in the field to access assets, gather information on community requirements and begin the recovery process.” 

 “If we do this it won’t be funded by NDRAA”.

“Our people know the local conditions, understand our assets and know the best and most efficient to address the community need.”

Cr Waugh said the Day labour Value for Money trial that North Burnett was involved in following the  2013 floods found that recovery and reconstruction work performed by the Council’s own day labour was 31 percent more efficient than similar work by external contractors.

“This clearly demonstrates the value for money proposition of using day labour, local people and local government plant,’’ he said.

He said the other matter that Canberra should focus on in the wake of TC Marcia was the so-called “betterment” of public infrastructure to withstand future natural disasters..

“The North Burnett has some assets that were destroyed in 2010 – and rebuilt, destroyed in 2013 – and rebuilt and have again been destroyed in the weekend cyclone,’’ he said.

“During the 2013 event North Burnett worked with the Queensland Government to implement two significant infrastructure projects under the betterment program.  These assets, the Mundubbera – Gayndah road and the Gayndah Water Supply have easily withstood this cyclone.”

 

New call for flood mitigation funds

The Federal Government should give greater focus to funding projects which mitigate the impacts of natural disasters, according to the Actuaries Institute.

In its pre-Budget submission, the Institute also says the Government should include cost estimates of future natural disasters in the Budget’s statement of risks.

The submission backs the Productivity Commission’s call in its recent report on the future of natural disaster funding for more attention to be paid to disaster mitigation.  The LGAQ has also long advocated for more money to be spent on projects that minimise the damage caused by disasters such as floods and cyclones.

“Funds allocated now to appropriate mitigation projects will ultimately reduce the government expenditure for rebuilding key public infrastructure and public assets,’’ the Institute says. 

VALUE OF ADVISORY GROUPS

The responses of the major parties to the LGAQ’s 10 Point Election Policy Plan was the major focus of attention for a key local government reference and advisory group meeting in Brisbane this week.

The Regional and Economic Development Advisory Group (REDAG) discussed the future of the Queensland Plan as well as strategies for encouraging investment in tourism attraction and telecommunications.

Chaired by Fraser Coast Mayor Gerard O’Connell, the REDAG group is one of 12 advisory groups representing 51 councils across Queensland, all of which help contribute to the LGAQ’s policy direction.

The REDAG group meeting followed a meeting last week of the Water and Sewerage Advisory Group, chaired by Mackay Regional Councillor Frank Gilbert, which discussed water security, pricing and the future of the Queensland Water Regional Alliance program.

In coming weeks, the LGAQ’s Roads and Transport Advisory Group and Resource Communities Advisory Group, will also meet to discuss key policy proposals to present to the incoming government.

Advocacy and representation is a core focus of the LGAQ so it is vital the Association engages directly with councils to ensure policy proposals are well grounded; of relevance to councils; and ultimately address their needs.

Never is this more important than when shaping and seeking to influence a newly elected State Government – a situation the Association currently finds itself in.

Importantly, the meetings gave all participants an opportunity to provide direct feedback to the LGAQ on current issues for councils and suggestions for targeting key policy proposals with a new State Government.

FASTER MOBILE NETWORK SPEEDS

The first of January not only marked the start of a new year, but also the birth of new telecommunication networks with both Telstra and Optus switching on their new 700mhz mobile phone networks aimed at improving communication options for many areas of Queensland.

The 700mhz frequency allows faster network speeds and larger geographic footprints, which potentially could provide significant benefits for coastal and regional councils and the communities they serve.

Importantly, the frequency also has the capability to punch through walls, thus allowing better in-building coverage for homes, offices, lifts and underground carparks.

Download speeds on the new network will be up to 100Mbs.

Both carriers are rolling out the network with Telstra announcing that the services would be initially switched on to 600 towns and suburbs throughout the country while Optus announced it would initially roll out 270 sites.

Telstra has announced Brisbane, regional centres and towns such as Home Hill, Tieri, Gympie, Gladstone, Mt Isa and Rockhampton will be amongst the first in Queensland to receive the new services.

Most new handsets are compatible including the iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Sony Xperia Z3.

LGAQ innovation Executive Lou Boyle said improving network speeds was important as it underpinned new business models for councils  

 

INFRASTRUCTURE TOPS ELECTION WISHLISTS

The snap 2015 Queensland election has caused local councils across the state to get out of the blocks early in putting forward their views on what a new government should have as policy priorities over the next three years.  The LGAQ’s 10 Point Policy Plan has served as something of a template for some councils, whose election wish lists include local projects which would fit into the Association’s proposal for a hefty reinvestment in local infrastructure across the state.

Past experience has shown that those councils that take the time to develop policy and investment plans to take to new governments are likely to gain at least some success, particularly if they are fortunate enough to be located in marginal electorates.

The Bundaberg Regional Council wants all parties contesting the 31 January Queensland election to commit to funding important local infrastructure projects such as the Multiplex community facility, the Rubyanna Waste Water Treatment Plant and flood mitigation measures.

Central Highlands Regional Council has identified flood mitigation projects, support to build the Blackwater Aquatic Centre, assistance to implement sport and recreation master plans and significant roads projects in the plan.

Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jameson is seeking policy commitments on these issues: no more boundary changes; preservation of the regional inter-urban break; Beerwah East as the preferred identified growth area; a fair outcome on the Caloundra South infrastructure agreements; and approval of the Sunshine Coast Airport Environmental Impact Statement and support for Council’s proposed financing strategy

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