Laidley ignored during disaster

ANGER surfaced at a meeting of Laidley Better Business members and Lockyer Valley regional councillors as business owners sought answers to issues arising from the January 11 floods.

Police Inspector Rob Graham, a police and community liaison officer, told the gathering he had been located to the Lockyer Valley region to help the mayor, residents and business houses get back on their feet.

“Ninety per cent of businesses in Laidley were affected by the recent flood,” Inspector Graham said.

“We, along with the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, are here for the long haul.”

Despite the reassuring words from Inspector Graham and Mayor Steve Jones, feelings that Laidley had been abandoned during the crisis were expressed by several business people at the meeting on Wednesday night.

One operator said even though her premises were not directly affected, she was also suffering through lack of income and no grants were available to assist her cause.

Cr Jones acknowledged her plight, adding that transport operators in the district were now putting off staff because of the absence of produce.

“The impact is affecting all of us, it is all inter-mingled,” he said.

“All businesses, including council, will suffer for the next six to nine months. We’ve reached the flood’s economic factor.”

The major complaint, that councillors and police were invisible during the floods and in the immediate aftermath, were answered in the fact it was impossible to reach Forest Hill and Laidley by road.

Shop owners were also critical of the fact sandbags were unavailable and there appeared to be no plan of action.

Confirming there was a plan, Cr Jones admitted there was a deal of confusion as events unfolded.

“When Grantham occurred, the plan went into action,” he said.

“You can have all the plans in the world but if there is no-one on the spot to implement them, they won’t work. In this case, with every town affected, we had to prioritise our resources.”

Cr Jones said, as the Laidley council depot became inaccessible during the flood, a building in the centre of town was needed where sand and sandbags could be stored and made readily available.

Senior Sergeant Jim McDonald, who is also a regional councillor, proposed a meeting with concerned business members to hold a debriefing and begin formulating a local action plan.

As anger began to surface, one member said something as simple as a phone call from a councillor offering verbal support would have eased the situation.

Another member added council’s lack of concern for Laidley even extended to the fact Christmas decorations were still strung across the main street.

Real estate principal Ray Bachmann fired a parting shot as discussion continued on the absence of councillors during the crisis.

“There’s a local government election next year,” he said.

“I’ll bet we’ll see plenty of councillors on the streets of Laidley then.”

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