Thursday, 2 February 2012

Work still outstanding 12 months after Yasi

<strong> Today: </strong> Once cyclone ravaged, the streets of Cardwell have come a long way in 12 months, but there's still work to do.

Natalie Dixon
Thursday, February 2, 2012
© The Cairns Post

Today: Once cyclone ravaged, the streets of Cardwell have come a long way in 12 months, but there's still work to do.

On February 3 last year, the biggest cyclone in memory smashed into the Far North Queensland coast. Residents lost their homes, farmers lost their crops and businesses lost their livelihoods. How is the impact zone faring one year on?

CYCLONE Yasi blew the winds of change harder and faster than ever when she crossed into the lives of Cassowary Coast residents a year ago.

Now, in the enduring aftermath of the monster storm, the physical scars of that February night are being mended with a slow but relentless grind.The road back to normality is still a dot on the horizon for those sticking around to see their region rebuilt, with layers of bureaucracy stifling reconstruction and some of the work still years away.

During the past year, $12 million of reconstruction work has been completed on council assets at the Cassowary Coast – a fraction of the $174 million it is expected to cost to fix all of the council’s damage. Only about half of the houses demolished after Yasi were rebuilt in time for Christmas, but most residents are now back in their homes or have a move-in date in sight. Thirty-six residents are still in emergency housing and many more are sleeping at friends’ and families’ homes.

A snapshot of the recovery process came yesterday when Cassowary Coast Regional Council released its first anniversary report on the reconstruction effort. It highlighted the "mountain of work" already done and the tough slog that still lies ahead.

The council has amassed more than 850 submissions seeking National Disaster Recovery and Relief Arrangement money, grouped into 55 packages at different stages in the bureaucratic chain. Only one of the packages has been approved for the state and federal cash. The rest are still being compiled by the council, assessed by engineers, costed, audited or waiting for government approval.

The council has requested a one-year extension on the NDRRA cut-off so it can have until July 2014 to finish rebuilding the community. Mayor Bill Shannon insists the process cannot be rushed, but the challenge lies in convincing residents that patience is required. "I need to make the point that when you’re dealing with public money, you have to be very careful," Cr Shannon said. He said the last of the submissions in the council’s hands are likely to be finalised by the end of the month, and money should be granted more rapidly as the State and Federal governments ramp up their responses.

Meanwhile, the door closed yesterday on the Queensland Reconstruction Authority’s Far Northern frontline operations in Innisfail, with boss Mike Keating declaring his branch’s recovery task done.  Sup Keating said within the next 12 to 18 months people would see work on the Cardwell foreshore, Clump Point and Dunk Island jetties started.

- Additional reporting Daniel Strudwick

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