Mixed messages for local communities

Article image - Mixed messages for local communities LGAQ chief executive Greg Hallam

The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) have welcome a major Federal Government report that condemned restrictions on local councils using their own staff to recover from natural disasters.

The Productivity Commission’s draft report on natural disaster funding says local councils should have more autonomy in how they respond and recover from disasters, including how they use their own staff in the cleanup and rebuilding.

The commission’s report states that ‘prescriptive, input-based conditions (such as restrictions on the use of local government employees’ labour (day labour)) are preventing state and local government from pursuing the most efficient recovery options’.

However the LGAQ has expressed concern at some of the reports recommendations, including the recommendation to reduce the Commonwealth share of funding for disaster recovery.

LGAQ predicts that increasing damage cost thresholds that trigger relief funding that will force local governments to take out disaster insurance which will hit smaller councils with crippling premiums.

LGAQ chief executive Greg Hallam said councils would welcome the commission’s recommendation that using so-called day labour for community recovery should be eligible for disaster funding.

“We have told the commission that using day labour for disaster recovery actually saves taxpayers money and, unlike the federal bureaucracy, the commission has accepted our case.

“However, the commission’s proposals regarding insurance against disasters will simply be impractical for communities who are regularly in the path of cyclones and floods.

“We are also very concerned about the knock on effects to councils of the commission’s proposal that Commonwealth funding of disaster relief be reduced to 50 percent.’’

Mr Hallam said the LGAQ would send a detailed submission to the commission on the implications of the recommendations in the draft report.

“We welcome the commission’s embrace of the benefits of properly funding disaster mitigation infrastructure but are concerned about any moves which would see the Commonwealth withdraw from its responsibilities in contributing its share of that funding.”