Monday, 6 February 2012

St George floods | Does it show Bligh's Government as all spin and no substance?

Facebook friends fight the flood around St George

Ella Worboys
Ella Worboys waits on a boat beside her grandmother's home, sealed in plastic, as floodwaters from the Balonne River rise around her. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen Source: The Australian

AS the floodwaters rose relentlessly around St George, Ella Worboys and her family agreed on this much: sandbags were not going to cut it this time.
The south Queensland cotton-growing centre was a ghost town last night after most of its 3000-odd residents heeded police orders to flee before a record-breaking flood hit. Hastily constructed levees were all that stood between the town and the Balonne River, which was surging towards its highest mark of more than 14m. Police reported that 54 homes had been inundated.

St George is the latest community in the firing line in southwest Queensland, with Mitchell and Roma to the north still cleaning up from floods that also stranded thousands in northern NSW. The drowning of an 18-month-old on a farm outside St George took the death toll to two, after mother of two Jane Sheahan was swept away in Roma on Friday.
Ms Worboys, 22, whom The Australian featured on the front page during last year's floods, took to Facebook. Sixty volunteers turned out on the weekend to tape up windows, doors and every possible gap in the structure in the hope of keeping the inside dry.

It is a long shot, Ms Worboys admitted, but as the water rose above the floor level of the house yesterday, she said anything was worth a try. "It's kind of surreal the way it keeps happening," she said. "We had so many years of drought; now we've had three floods in three years. "But Facebook was great. We had a lot of people turn up to help, others came by with food and plates of sandwiches. It's not just the family - everyone pitched in. It's a new way of doing it, but we didn't have much choice."

As she was speaking, St George's favourite son, Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce, turned up in shorts, boots and gaiters to see how the family was getting on. "How's your hydrological work of expertise going?" Senator Joyce asked."We'll all know soon enough," replied Ella's father, Jim Worboys.

Queensland Police Commission Bob Atkinson said about 300 of the town's residents had defied orders to leave. While the police had the power to force them to comply, they would not be physically forced out of their homes. "That's not viable or practical," Mr Atkinson said.Police went door to door to plead with those remaining to join the evacuation while there was still time.

Lenore Banks caught one of the last planes out with five-month-old baby, Shelby, and children Lachlan, 13, and Max, 11. Her husband stayed behind. "I don't know what's going to happen to us or how long we're going to be away for," Ms Banks said. "Could be a couple of days, could be two weeks."

St George Mayor Donna Stewart said council crews worked through the night to build up the levees to withstand a flood of 14.7m. Originally, the Balonne was predicted to rise to 15m, 1.5m above its highest mark set in 2010, but there was relief last night as the Bureau of Meteorology scaled back its forecasts, with the river now expected to peak at 14m today. "We're confident the levees will hold," Ms Stewart said.

However, homes outside the barrier would still be inundated. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said 248 homes had flood damage in Mitchell and 386 were damaged in Roma. "This natural disaster is still unfolding," she said. "When we have tallied the extent of the damage caused by these floods, we will be in a better position to consider how the reconstruction will be dealt with."

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My Opinion

In politics criticism is easy to come by and sometimes constructed on spurious grounds but there are occasions where Government is justifably criticised. I believe the case of the floods inundating St George is a case in question.

On the ABC evening programme last night I was surprised to hear the Mayor of Balonne Shire Cr. Donna Stewart's lament that the Bligh State Government had failed to fund the Shire's levee bank proposal. As a result the Shire was again coordinating the temporary lifting of 4 km of levee bank because her Council could not get any funding from any authority.

I find this unbelievable considering that St George has been inundated 3 years running and as a result of the floods and the natural disasters of 2011 the Bligh Government had set up a Government body to oversee the rectification of the flooding and the removal of red tape.

Where is the much publicised Queensland Reconstruction Authority? Why hasn't it funded the lifting of the levee bank?  Why hasn't Anna Bligh intervened and directed the Authority to fund the construction of the levee bank?

The above questions gives reason to the community observing, that sadly the Bligh Government is more spin than substance.

Ross Parisi

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