New money for Torres Strait seawalls may not be enough to save communities | Pacific Beat

New money for Torres Strait seawalls may not be enough to save communities

New money for Torres Strait seawalls may not be enough to save communities

Updated 26 February 2014, 18:25 AEDT

Flood-affected communities in the Torres Strait have welcomed the announcement this morning of urgently-needed funding for seawalls.

The impact of high tides and storm surges is so serious that some communities are threatened with having to leave their islands forever.

A joint statement by the Australian and Queensland governments promised a total of $26.2 million dollars build new tidal defences.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett

Speakers: Warren Entsch, Federal MP for Leichhardt

Jeni Enosa, Current Affairs Presenter, Torres Strait Radio 4MW

GARRETT: It has been a long hard road for the Torres Strait in trying to extract this funding from the Australian and Queensland governments.

In the joint statement Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss says the works to be built with the 26 million dollars in funding will provide protection for at least another 30 years.

The money has been welcomed by the Chairman of the Torres Strait Regional Authority Joseph Elu and the Mayor of the Torres Strait Island Regional Council Fred Gela .

Torres Strait Radio 4MW presenter Jenny Enosa says it is people living on coral cays and on the low lying alluvial islands who are most affected.

ENOSA: Some of the houses, people live right next to the water, literally on the waterfront. And it is king tides and monsoon season, the tides are extraordinary. The storms come, the water comes right into their homes. A resident on Iama community in the central islands was telling me how the family come out of the house, wait for the tide to go down and then go back to their homes, clean up, mop. They put all their white goods up on tables and higher places that ..you know try to protect them so they won't be affected by salt water getting into the deep freezer or other white goods and things like that. And on Saibai the same thing again, the water comes in from the swamp as well as the salt water from the ocean or the sea.

GARRETT: Local Federal Co-alition MP Warren Entsch has been backing the Torres strait campaign to win funding for flood defences.

He told Radio 4MW the announcement is an exciting step forward.

ENTSCH: It may not be enough and we'll have a look at that as we go through but this is a major step in the right direction. I was talking to Minister Truss yesterday and I suggested to him we would like to get him up there to have a look first hand, to look at the problems, because I have been up there before with him to a number of the communities but I would like to go on to the six affected communities so he can see first hand what we are talking about when we have to continue to do it because some of them we can do quite cost-effectively and some of them, of course like Biogu and Saibai, are going to be quite expensive. But nevertheless the money is there. They can start working on this and the great thing about it is that we want to make sure in these projects that we maximise employment for local people in those communities so it provides them with a sense of ownership of the infrastructure that we are putting in.

GARRETT: Work is expected to begin in the next couple of months when the wet season finishes and to take four years to complete.

Jeni Enosa says, despite the funding, communities are still in jeopardy.

ENOSA: People don't really want to leave their home island. These are their homes.

GARRETT: It has taken 3 years to get this funding. Will it be enough to stop communities having to move away?

ENOSA: It is not going to be enough. I have spoken to the regional leaders of the Torres Strait and they have said that they will need more money from the government. The issue is not going to be addressed just with 26.2 million dollars that the government announced today.

GARRETT: So how much money will it need?

ENOSA: That is the figure that ..from what I understand they will need engineers to calculate all that to come up with the proper figure. All they are saying is even, I've just spoken to the federal member for Leichhardt (Warren Entsch), he is saying they need more but he doesn't have that figure so how much money we are talking about, how much the government can come up with, is a big question mark.

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