MEMORIES FLOOD BACK: Qld Premier Anna Bligh and Toowoomba Mayor Peter Taylor unveil the “Stone of Hope” memorial. Tuesday marks one year since flash flooding tore through Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley. (AAP Image/Patrick Hamilton)
Political leadership was tested last year in Queensland’s darkest hours, Premier Anna Bligh says.
Ms Bligh, on the eve of the anniversary of Queensland’s deadliest floods, visited Toowoomba where she unveiled a memorial plaque in the centre of town.
“This time last year were among some of Queensland’s darkest hours,” she told reporters on Monday.
“For many of us there were times when we were overwhelmed and we thought we would never recover … but we have seen an incredible level of community strength and community spirit.”
Ms Bligh, who entered Queensland politics in 1995 and became premier in 2007, heard first hand on Monday about the lengths to which some Toowoomba business owners went to rebuild after a flood described as an inland tsunami destroyed their livelihoods on January 10 last year.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the disasters of 2011 were one of the greatest tests for our state,” she told reporters.
“It tested us as individuals; it tested us as families and communities.
“And it tested the leadership: it tested the mayors and councils.
“It tested me as premier and it tested all levels of government.”
Asked whether she had passed the test, Ms Bligh said that was for others to decide.
But in a statement issued earlier in the day, Ms Bligh outlined a few of her government’s reconstruction achievements.
Of the 9170 kilometres of road damaged during the floods, 8482 had been reopened, she said.
Ms Bligh, who is also the minister for reconstruction, said all affected schools and national parks were back in operation.
She declined to answer questions about the upcoming state election, which is expected to be called in March.
“This week, I think, is a time to remember what we’ve been through,” she said.
“It’s a time to let those families who lost people mourn and to pay due respect.”
Of the 35 people who died when more than 70 per cent of the state was flooded last summer, 22 died in the state’s southeast. Three people are still missing.
“There will be some people among us this week who will be reliving very traumatic events,” Ms Bligh said.
“This is a good week to reach out to friends.
“It’s going to be a tough week for Queenslanders but I hope it’s also a week where they feel, like I do, that we’ve come out of it stronger.”
Ms Bligh thanked Australians for their support and donations, which resulted in the Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal paying out about $280 million to more than 40,000 people.
“Of that, $2.8 million was used in the Lockyer Valley Land Swap Project to move residents of Grantham onto higher ground after the devastating floods there,” she said.
Ms Bligh will visit the Lockyer Valley communities of Gatton, Grantham and Murphys Creek on Tuesday before travelling to Ipswich and Brisbane, where 10,500 homes have been largely repaired. – AAP