Local Government Disaster Fund

30 Nov 2011 questionsarchive

A question put forward to the Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (Minister for Industrial Relations, Minister for State/Local Government Relations) regarding the State's disaster fund.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:21): My questions are the same questions that I asked the minister last week, to which I seek answers, on the state disaster fund.

The Hon. G.E. Gago: Who's this to?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The Minister for State/Local Government Relations.

Has the minister determined terms of reference and will he make them publicly available?

When can councils expect to receive payment?

On full payout, what will be the balance of the reserve?

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (Minister for Industrial Relations, Minister for State/Local Government Relations) (14:22): I would like to thank the honourable member for her very important questions, and I acknowledge the fact that she has had a great interest in disasters for many years. You actually belong to an opposition which is one great disaster. Members would recall that widespread storms in December 2010 and February 2011 over the northern, Mid North and western regions of South Australia caused extensive wind and flood damage to local government infrastructure in a number of the adjoining council regions, including Goyder, Clare and Gilbert Valleys, Barossa, Mid Murray, Light, Orroroo Carrieton, Northern Areas and Peterborough.

To assist councils in the remediation of the damages, funding is available through the state government's Local Government Disaster Fund (the fund) to contribute towards the cost of reparation. The fund is overseen by the Disaster Fund Management Committee, which comprises senior representatives from the Department of Treasury and Finance, the Office for State/Local Government Relations, the Local Government Grants Commission and the Local Government Association.

To date, 10 councils have applied to the committee for funding assistance. At its August meeting in 2011, the committee accepted an independent engineer's recommendation regarding the District Council of Orroroo Carrieton's application. An amount of $627,724 has been recommended to the Treasurer for payment. At its September meeting the committee resolved to recommend to the Treasurer a first tranche payment of $1.5 million to the Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council as part of the $3 million previously approved by the Treasurer. At that time the committee requested advice from the independent engineers, Tonkin Consulting, regarding a proposed change of method of assessment that was identified during consideration by the engineers of the applications.

The engineers provided an update to the committee on 19 September, including further advice regarding the methodology. The committee requested that the current applications under assessment be recalculated using the new methodology (Peterborough, Clare and Gilbert Valleys, Goyder, Kangaroo Island and Mid Murray). This advice was considered at the 4 October meeting, and the management committee resolved to recommend to the Treasurer approval of the Peterborough, Goyder and Kangaroo Island applications as informed by the independent engineers. Details of the recommendations are:

Peterborough, $3,093,253;

Goyder, $2,016,880 (December 2010 event) and $4,600,620 (February 2011 event); and

Kangaroo Island, $269,579 (September 2010 event) and $289,604 (March 2011 event).

The management committee also heard a presentation from Maloney Field Services regarding the status of the Whyalla City Council application and the Flinders Ranges Council application. The engineer's recommendation regarding the Whyalla foreshore seawall has been received by the management committee and is under consideration. The Flinders Ranges Council application has been completed and is currently with council for endorsement.

I have recently written to the mayors and chairs of the affected councils to ensure them of the government's continued commitment to assisting the affected councils to achieve the restoration of damaged local government infrastructure. I also advised the councils that the management committee and the fund's engineers have been endeavouring to assess the applications as quickly as possible, given the magnitude and the extent of disasters while giving due consideration to the longer term sustainability and viability of the fund.

I have also met with mayor Kym McHugh, President of the Local Government Association, to discuss the disaster fund and the current assessment of the applications for assistance. I have assured the LGA that the government is committed to assisting the affected councils to achieve the restoration of damaged local government infrastructure.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:27): Does the minister know what the balance of the reserve is once those payouts have been made?

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (Minister for Industrial Relations, Minister for State/Local Government Relations) (14:27): The current balance of the fund is $41.8 million, including the $3 million drawdown for the Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council. The 2011-12 allocation in the state budget for the fund is $1.392 million. The 2011-12 revised estimate currently is $4.392 million, due to the approval of a $3 million drawdown for the Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council in the 2010-11 financial year but carried over into the 2011-12 financial year.

Applications to the fund for assistance currently total $30.8 million, with a further $4.4 million anticipated, giving a total of $35.2 million. A cabinet submission has been prepared for cabinet's consideration and approval requesting a drawdown from the fund in 2011-12 of $8.13 million and $7.33 million in 2012-13 to meet the expected validated reinstatement costs.

The PRESIDENT: I welcome the Hon. Mr Gilfillan in the gallery.

Honourable members: Hear, hear!