Relief scheme changes would be a disaster: Mayor

Proposed changes to the Federal Government’s natural disaster relief scheme would be a disaster for local government, Redland City Mayor Karen Williams said today.

Cr Williams said Redland City residents would have borne much of the $2 million cost of fighting the North Stradbroke Island fires under the proposed changes.

“Redland City Council and other smaller councils would be the hardest hit if Productivity Commission recommendations that the Federal Government slash its financial contribution to disaster relief operations are accepted by the Federal Government,” she said.

“All councils and all communities need to send a clear message to the Federal Government that these proposed changes would be disastrous.

“Many councils could be forced to hike up rates to foot the bill for disaster relief and recovery work.

“We are not asking the government for any more, we just don’t want any less than the financial breakdown that has been in place for many years.

“Councils already contribute heavily in times of disaster by providing labour and plant and equipment to the disaster recovery effort. The Productivity Commission proposals would be just another slug that we cannot afford.

“When it comes to natural disasters, and recovering from them, we need the Federal Government to recognise that penny pinching cannot be an option.

“Safety of our communities has to be our highest priority and disaster recovery and relief is not an area we need to be compromising safety by cutting costs.

“We have a responsibility to our people to act – and act quickly and decisively – in times of disaster. To not do so can cost lives.

“You can’t put a value on a human life.”

Cr Williams said natural disasters are an unfortunate part of Australian life that annually left a massive financial legacy that had to be shared.

“We believe the current system of cost-sharing is fair. To change it would be Un-Australian,” she said.

“We are all in this together.”