From: Torres News Online
THE Torres Strait Island Regional Council’s application to the Federal Government’s Regional Development Australia Fund for money for sea walls has cleared the first stage of the approval process. On Wednesday, January 11, the RDAF announced the proposal was one of three in the Far North still with a shot at securing a share of $200 million in Commonwealth cash for new projects in regional Australia. Last December, TSIRC applied for $5 million through round two of the RDAF to help rebuild seawalls on Boigu and Saibai to protect those communities from flooding in king tides.
However required works for all six islands in the Torres Strait affected by rising sea levels have been costed at $22.4 million. A TSIRC spokesperson said the council was pleased its expression of interest had made it through the first round.
“Obviously we hope our submission will be successful so we can move on with the necessary upgrades to community infrastructure on Boigu and Saibai,” the spokesperson said.
RDA Far North Queensland and Torres Strait chairman Allan Dale said the announcement of the projects going to full application provided an opportunity to further demonstrate how the projects would meet the needs of the region.
“The quality of the projects received in our region was very high, making it a difficult choice between many worthy options,” Dr Dale said.
“Many of the projects submitted make a great contribution to progression of the Far North Queensland and Torres Strait Roadmap and we will be continuing to work with both Governments to see them progressed over time.”
He said TSIRC’s sea walls project was just one of three projects “critically important for our region”.
The two other Far North projects chosen to proceed to the next stage include a proposal to upgrade the Hann Highway, and a proposal to rebuild the Malanda visitors and interpretive centre.
“While providing a lifeline for new mining, agricultural and pastoral development in the Gulf, the Hann Highway proposal also improves the region’s overall freight reliability,” Dr Dale said.
“Equally, after much feasibility work, the Torres Strait sea walls proposal would provide much needed infrastructure to secure the future of island communities now at risk from sea level rise.
“Finally, the Rainforest Dreaming proposal would provide a boost to the region’s tourism industry.
“These projects have a strong level of community support, will have a positive long-term impact on our region and neighbouring regions and are ready to proceed.”
In August, the Federal government backed a motion by Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch to “commit to restore and rebuild the damaged seawalls on the outer islands of the Torres Strait”.
However in November, 2011, the Federal Government backflipped, with Minister for Regional Australia Simon Crean saying the works were a matter for the local and state governments.
Mr Entsch told the Torres News last Thursday that forcing TSIRC to jump through the RDAF hoops “a sick joke”.
“Minister Crean previously told me, and told Mayor Gela, that the government was not going to fund the sea walls out of the RDAF,” Mr Entsch said.
“They have just allocated even more money to micro Pacific nations to shore up their response to climate change.
“All they are doing is playing for time, and meanwhile more of the cemetery at Saibai is being washed into the sea.”
Last year TSIRC Mayor Fred Gela warned Prime Minister Julia Gillard that residents on the outer islands were at risk of becoming Australia’s “first climate change refugees”.