The Victorian floods are expected to cost the state economy millions of dollars, with more than 3,000 Victorians forced to flee their homes as floodwaters continue to rise.
The towns of Rochester, Serpentine, Horsham, Charlton and Glenorchy are expected to be some of the hardest hit.
Rob Spence, chief executive of the Municipal Association of Victoria, says councils will struggle to recover from the floods, which have already crippled large parts of Queensland and NSW.
“A lot of these councils here are the poorest in Victoria – a lot of them struggle to survive when the climate is absolutely stable. You [put] an issue like this in front of them and it loads them up,” Spence says.
The MAV says councils will need significant funding from both state and federal governments in order to rebuild.
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu says the government will provide assistance wherever it is needed, describing the flood as one of the worst in Victoria’s history.
Chris James, of the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry, doesn’t believe the floods will push the budget into deficit.
“But it will certainly take some money off the bottom line that could have been allocated to other things,” he says.
Meanwhile, residents in Brisbane have been urged to “get back to work” amidst food shortages, traffic chaos and debris in the wake of the floods.
Businesses are being urged to implement staggered rosters so that the city doesn’t become gridlocked, with additional security to ward off looters.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says Brisbane is facing a massive relocation task after 11,900 homes and 2,500 businesses were flooded.
She has warned many people will be homeless for an extended period, with the option of work-camp hubs being considered to accommodate them.
Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan says the floods may prove to be the costliest natural disaster ever to hit Australia, with the recovery effort expected to take years rather than months.
“It will involve billions of dollars of Commonwealth money, and also state government money, and there’s going to be impacts on local government as well,” Swan says.
Swan says the Federal Government is determined to return the budget to surplus in 2013, but there will be some tough decisions ahead in order to achieve that.
“We’ve got in place a very strict set of spending guidelines… There’s no doubt that the costs involved in responding to this natural disaster are substantial, but we shouldn’t forget that we’ve also got a very strong economy, a strong investment pipeline, and strong public finances,” he says.