Councils eased on disaster recovery spending

By Paul Bell, President Local Government Association of Queensland

Councils recovering from the devastating floods and cyclones of 2010 and 2011 have been given the green light to use their own workers to repair and restore local infrastructure under 'value for money' changes introduced by the Gillard Government.

The changes, which will allow councils to bypass the need to hire contractors for disaster recovery work provided they can demonstrate the arrangements deliver value for money, follow sustained efforts by the Queensland local government sector to reform the system of Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).

It was a credit to Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan, Minister Assisting on Queensland Flood Recovery Joe Ludwig and Queensland Senator Jan McLucas that they saw the sense in pushing for and making the changes.

This means councils can undertake this crucial recovery and reconstruction work cheaper and better with their own labour.

That is a major breakthrough, particularly for remote councils struggling to get contractors to do the work.

In some of the reconstruction work, costs will be reduced by as much as 45 per cent if council staff rather than outsourced labour are able to complete the job.

The new value-for-money model will only apply to reconstruction of eligible assets damaged in the 2010-11 floods and Tropical Cyclone Yasi and any of those assets re-damaged in subsequent years.

It laid the foundations for councils to argue for a permanent change to NDRRA arrangements to lock in value for money models for reconstruction work in the future.

The Australian Government Reconstruction Inspectorate will retain oversight for projects under the National Partnership Agreement for Natural Disaster Reconstruction and Recovery, while the Queensland Reconstruction Authority will assess eligibility of projects to achieve value for money.

The model will be regularly reviewed with reports to both governments, and these reports will feed in to any further reforms to NDRRA.

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