Frustrating wait continues for evacuated residents

Frustrated residents are no closer to returning to a flood-hit far north Queensland community more than a month after they were evacuated.

Queensland Premier Steven Miles has apologised for a lack of communication, with people from Wujal Wujal, north of Cairns, still waiting to hear when they can go home.

More than 300 people were evacuated to Cooktown after record flooding caused by Tropical Cyclone Jasper devastated the region last month.

The clean-up is well underway with power restored at the remote community.

However residents don’t look like returning any time soon due to a damaged pump at the local waste treatment plant.

“The biggest impediment to getting the community back there right now is the wastewater treatment facility,” Mr Miles said.

“The pump … was inundated in the flooding and there’s an expectation that it will fail so efforts are under way now to source a new (one).

“They are literally scouring the country looking for parts so they can get the pump back up and running.”

He hoped to know more next week but said a return date could still not be given to residents.

“I understand how frustrating this is, I’m frustrated too,” he said.

“We haven’t been able to give a firm timeline … on when it will be safe to return because we don’t know when we will be able to get that pump.”

Mr Miles said he had contacted evacuated Wujal Wujal elder Auntie Kathleen Walker after she had complained about a lack of communication.

“I rang Auntie Kathleen this morning. I’ve apologised to her that she felt that way,” he said.

“I guess I was so focused on the practicalities of getting the town back up and running.

“I’m sorry that the elders felt like I didn’t communicate sufficiently with them.”

Fire and Disaster Recovery Minister Nikki Boyd is set to speak with Wujal Wujal elders in Cooktown on Wednesday and the premier said all efforts were being made to allow residents to return.

“What I assured Auntie Kathleen was that everyone is absolutely focused on getting them back to country, back to their community, as quickly as we possibly can,” Mr Miles said.

Temporary housing has been installed in the flood-hit regions, with caravans arriving at Wujal Wujal, Degarra and Ayton.

Degarra residents are still waiting for power to be restored.

Many at Bloomfield, Degarra and Wujal Wujal lost everything in the floodwaters.

“What I saw was significant progress, but it’s frustratingly slow, and there is still much more work that needs to be done,” Mr Miles said after visiting the region on Tuesday.

The premier has also offered assistance to the nearby Douglas Shire Council with roads still cut and a water supply shortage due to storm debris in treatment plants.

“What we’re saying to Douglas is if there is anything that you need, we will get it for you,” he said.

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