Two of Queensland’s rural communities are a hive of activity as hundreds of workers from across the state move into makeshift flood recovery camps.
Housing and Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni said the camps have been established after exhausting all existing accommodation options in the towns of Richmond and Julia Creek.
“The mammoth task of rebuilding after the floods will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars and the Palaszczuk Government is committed to ensuring the bulk of that money stays in the affected areas,” said Mr de Brenni.
“A total of 180 Queensland Rail staff and contractors will call the camps their home away from home – 120 in Julia Creek and 60 in Richmond, as they work to re-open the Townsville to Mount Isa rail line,” he said.
“My department has been working closely with Richmond and McKinlay shire councils, as well as local businesses like the Mud Hotel in Richmond and Marwill Pty Ltd in Julia Creek, to get these camps operational.
“All-up we have 400 Queensland Rail staff and contractors in town working on the railway line – over half of them staying in local motels and other accommodation.
“The influx of these workers and the fact we are engaging local businesses will be a much-needed economic boost for these communities.”
Marwill director Janene Fegan said the company was happy to establish a 120-bed workers camp in Julia Creek to cope with the influx of workers.
“We are a small company that has taken on a big job,” said Mrs Fegan.
“We located hire companies in Mackay and Townsville that could supply us with 37 dongas – transportable temporary accommodation buildings which have rooms, toilets and shower facilities.
“The final camp has four laundries, two offices, a kitchen block and dining area, as well as beds for workers to rest and recover after a hard day’s work.
“Julia Creek company Corrina’s Catering is providing the food, with most items sourced from our local grocery and butcher shops.
“The local service station is putting together packed lunches for workers subcontracted to Queensland Rail who are already in town.
Richmond Mayor John Wharton confirmed the benefits of rebuilding efforts were quickly flowing through to the local communities.
“The floods may well have been a disaster for our cattle industry but a lot of jobs have been created in our town,” said Mr Wharton.
“The motels are full, the pubs are full and all the workers are buying food and fuel – all that money is good for our community.
“Council was able to help out by making light-industrial zoned land available for one of the camps, which already had power, water and sewerage connected … so it was right to go.”
Transport Minister Mark Bailey said Queensland Rail has a big job – repairing bridges and culverts, cleaning away mud and replacing damaged tracks, including the base that holds the track up, along a 200 kilometre stretch between Richmond and Cloncurry.
“Having these workers camps set up so quickly means we can engage a larger workforce and get this important freight line opened in the next six to ten weeks,” said Mr Bailey.
“Queensland Rail is allocating all available resources to the repair works, bringing in its engineers and track teams from right across the state.
“Additionally, contractors and workers from Townsville, Ingham, Rockhampton, Cloncurry, Richmond and Mount Isa are being brought in to assist with earthworks, crane hire and traffic control.
“This partnership with the Department of Housing and Public Works will play an important role in ensuring our team of Queensland Rail staff, contractors and workers can be appropriately situated along the line for the duration of the repair work.”
Once the works have been completed, the camps will be removed and the sites returned to normal, with the exception of 24 beds at the Mud Hotel at Richmond, which will become a permanent expansion of the facility.
Anyone seeking help following the floods crisis should contact 13 QGOV (13 74 68) or visit www.qld.gov.au