PM’s million-dollar surprise for Qld councils
FIRE-ravaged Queensland communities will splash out on fire break upgrades, new firefighting equipment and economic stimulus after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a surprise $1 million grant.
Five local governments in Queensland, out of 42 nationally, will receive the money, which is untied and being put into the council's bank accounts today without any restrictions or oversight on how it should be spent.
Mr Morrison said he was trusting the councils with the money and that it was more important to cut the red tape than set out rules on how to spend the cash.
"To be honest, that's not what's concerning me right now. What's concerning me right now is that they need the cash, not paperwork," he said.
"They need the cash so they can get on and respond to the need on the ground."
Several mayors were surprised by the announcement yesterday, only learning of it when contacted by The Courier-Mail.
Livingstone, Noosa, Scenic Rim, Southern Downs and Sunshine Coast, which were devastated by fires between September and November, will receive the money from today.
Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson admitted the announcement "came out of the blue", but said he was grateful for the cash injection. He said he was waiting to hear if there were any parameters on how it could be spent.
"We'll be looking at areas like upgrading fire trails to get easy access to fire areas, there will be opportunities for upgrading equipment for firefighting," Cr Jamieson said.
Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said a council meeting would be held on Tuesday to decide how to spend the money.
She said it would be used to benefit rural communities in the region, not just Stanthorpe and other areas directly impacted by fire, as money was already coming from the Queensland Reconstruction Authority for that town.
She said the whole region had been hurt economically by the double blow from drought and fires and stimulus was needed.
"We have no income in our region as a result of the drought and that's been made worse by the bushfires," Cr Dobie said.
Noosa Mayor Tony Wellington said the money would be used to update fire response plans.
Mr Morrison yesterday announced $60 million in grants for councils, with $42 million going out to 42 councils today and more money to be provided as needed.
It is coming out of the $2 billion National Bushfire Recovery Agency announced earlier this week.