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Funding flows 17 months after floods

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Earthmoving contractors who worked to protect Koondrook during the October 2022 floods have finally received payment from the state government after 17 months of waiting.

Local contractor Danny Gleeson said that not being paid makes you question dropping everything to help.

“We dropped what we were doing. We had two machines that were working somewhere else, we probably had two machines there in an hour,” said Mr Gleeson.

Despite the risk of an eroded levee bank in the Guttrum threatening the township of Koondrook, authorities waited for the bank to breach and for flooding to commence before approval was given. This made a simple repair treacherous as the machines tracked through deep floodwaters amongst towering gums with a sodden base. 

“We were in there for about three days.” 

Mr Gleeson said the cost to run machines in floodwater is significant, pointing to final drive failures and machines requiring new sets of tracks.

Local dairy farmer Skeeta Verhey, who coordinated with Peter Walsh and SES Incident Control Centre (ICC) about the breach, spoke to ABC Rural on the issue.  

“We spoke with the ICC and we were given an opportunity to go in and build a levee, so we called upon our local earthmoving contractors,” he told ABC Rural.

“They dropped everything and got machines to us and did the work, which was just phenomenal.”

The emergency works were successful. The floodwater was kept out and the town was protected.

Contractors like Mr Gleeson did works across the river in NSW and were paid promptly, but not for the Victorian job.

“After these guys came in and did the work, it just dragged on and on and it seemed there were no funds there,” Mr Verhey said.

“They’re our frontline, and they went over and beyond what was expected, and none of these government agencies see the hard work people put in.

“It’s a bit of an insult.”

Hours after the story was covered on the ABC’s Victorian Country Hour, VICSES sent a statement saying the outstanding invoices had now been paid.

“Invoicing and approvals for these works did not, in this instance, follow VICSES’s normal protocols, and the invoices were ultimately overlooked,” a spokesperson said.

“VICSES apologises to the local contractors for the oversight and delay.

“The invoices are now being paid in full.

“A review of VICSES’ invoicing protocols during declared operations will also be undertaken to prevent similar oversights during future emergencies.”

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 28 March 2024

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 28 March 2024.

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