Transcript - doorstop - Maryborough, Queensland

JOURNALIST: Well, take us away. George, why are we here today?

GEORGE SEYMOUR [FRASER COAST MAYOR]: Last year, 2022, we had four floods of the Mary River in Maryborough, two of them major. One of the real heartbreaking moments of those floods was seeing people’s homes go under water. This home here, water went above the ceiling. We’re very, very pleased to be working with the Australian Government and the Queensland Government on the Voluntary Buyback Program. This is how we get the most vulnerable homes out of harm’s way to help people have flood-free homes, and this land here now will become park land. The material from the homes is being recycled. Hardly any of it is going to landfill, whether it’s concrete slabs becoming road base; the windows, the timber everything is going to be recycled.

JOURNALIST: What will this space be used for in the future?

GEORGE SEYMOUR: This will be green open space so habitat for wildlife, beautiful parkland beside the river. I’m looking forward to the process of designing this parkland with these large native mature trees, rolling ground by the river. It’s a real opportunity for our community to create new green space in our city.

JOURNALIST: Can you take us back to the floods that did happen last year. What did this space look like?

[Interruption due to construction noise]

JOURNALIST: Sorry. All right. So, take us back to that moment where this home itself went underwater. What did this area look like?

GEORGE SEYMOUR: This area, Fort Street, people have not lived in these homes since the major flooding. The major floods of 2022 went throughout this low‑lying area and above the roof here, you know, at Fort Street at this home. So, it was very heartbreaking for the family - families to see their homes being inundated like that. This program, you know, we’re really pleased to see that the contracts have settled so they will be able to buy in flood-free homes and at the same time as being able to turn this land, which we know is not suitable for homes, into park land.

JOURNALIST: Might have a chat to the MP if that’s okay. All good? Beautiful. Anthony, can you talk us a little through this Buyback Scheme. For those who maybe don’t know a little bit about it, can you give us an overview?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: Yeah, so the Federal Government are really pleased to partner with the state and work in conjunction with council to ensure that people can move on with their lives. So, this is part of the Federal Government’s contribution of working with the State to ensure that homes that have been severely impacted, like this one has, those people are able to move on with their lives. The good news about the people who were living in this house is they have stayed local, so they still wanted to be involved in the local community, but, obviously, this place is not somewhere where you’d want to be living, so it enables people to move on and it enables the council to use this space for public park land, which is a great outcome.

JOURNALIST: How much will people get back especially for this home? How much will this owner get back for participating?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM: That’s negotiated by the State Government as part of the process, but the Federal Government make a contribution as part of a $742 Million package that we’ve negotiated with the State, but it also involves where houses weren’t severely impacted like this one, they can make other improvements to ensure that they are more flood resilient as well. So, there’s a whole range of measures that are in place, but it enables communities – and I think everyone across Australia can remember the devastation of Maryborough and in other places around the country as well. The Federal Government want to do our part to make sure that people are recovering from the floods, but that the so severely impacted can move on and it isn’t going to be an ongoing problem.

JOURNALIST: And obviously this is one house but how has the community responded in this scheme? How many houses, that sort of thing?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM: So the good news is that there’s been 11 properties that have been settled in this area and the good thing about that is, as you can see, there’s been some work for local contractors as well, so there are some benefits for the community. But also, as the Mayor said, the park land that will be established here will be a great asset for future generations.

JOURNALIST: Beautiful. Is there any other houses that are in the works of becoming settled, that sort of thing?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM: That process is ongoing, but there’s also other resilience works, as I said, that I’ve mentioned before so that people can improve their dwellings so that the floods aren’t as impactful when they do happen, and it’s inevitable that there will be future floods so we want to do what we can to ensure that those properties are protected as best as possible.

JOURNALIST: And across Queensland as well, how many are participating in this scheme?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, it’s based on where there have been flood impacts in the past and those are negotiated mainly by the State Government.

JOURNALIST: And the recycling aspect as well, can you talk us a little bit through that? What kind of happens when a house is demolished?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Yeah, so talking to the contractors, there is a real high demand obviously at the moment given that there are supply chain issues and people having trouble finding access to building materials, so there is a lot of demand. So, as much as possible will be recycled in terms of the timber, the window frames, but also even the cement block from this will be used in road maintenance as well, and so it really is something that they’re focused on every part of the house and, where possible, it’s being used, which is a great outcome.

JOURNALIST: Is there any other demolition works happening in other areas such as Gympie and other flood-affected areas already?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM: My understanding is that the immediate 11 that have been settled are in this area here, which is what we’re focused on today. I’m sure we can provide some more information about other areas.

JOURNALIST: Anything else we’ve missed that you’d like to touch on?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM: I do not think so. George?

JOURNALIST: What are the future plans for the area?

GEORGE SEYMOUR: This area, this real rolling hillside beside the river, I think has enormous potential for park land. We haven’t got to that stage. Obviously, there’s still homes on it. And there will be a bit of earthmoving in terms of taking fill from that side to the other side to level it more, but I think it’s got enormous potential for beautiful riverside park land, which we need more of. I think as a growing region, parks are vitally important for the health, vitality and wellbeing of the community.

JOURNALIST: Obviously not going to be building anything on here?

GEORGE SEYMOUR: One of the key components of the program is that after the land has been bought back, it can’t be built on again. This is about resilience, making sure that this flood-prone area that we now know will flood easily is not built upon again.

JOURNALIST: Is there any other sort of extra measures that have to go in place to sort of floodproof a park land?


JOURNALIST: We’re not going to see the grass get all washed away, are we, if another flood comes through?

GEORGE SEYMOUR: No. It’s the case that some of our most loved parks are riverside parks. The first area and indeed the flooding of the Maryborough CBD comes through Queens Park. It’s the first area to flood. It’s just the case that park land is often best when it is riverside, so you see it flooded easily.

JOURNALIST: Beautiful. Do we have any construction workers or anything like that we could chat to or – no?