by James Graham
COUNCILLOR John Collins finally got his wish for the national media to listen to Proserpine's post-cyclone plight - and he didn't pull any punches.
His viral 'Don't Forget Us' plea to Australia on Facebook was answered with an appearance on Ten's national news and current affairs show The Project this week.
The producers visited Proserpine to mark the six-month anniversary since Cyclone Debbie left its devastating trail of destruction.
"I told them I wasn't going to sugar-coat the answers as people needed to know what's happening here,” said the deputy regional mayor.
"They were a bit shocked to see that a lot of these buildings remained untouched and some residents were still struggling to get their lives back to normal.”
Cr Collins said they interviewed cane growers and business owners and filmed the damaged houses in the area. He also took the crew on a walk through the damaged council administration office.
"It was good to see that they were interested in actually following up on the damage done by the cyclone,” he said.
After six challenging months, Cr Collins also told the Whitsunday Coast Guardian it was time for the politicians to stop playing political party games.
"We've had a few different occasions when local members were able to cross the floor and vote in favour of funding arrangements for this area after the cyclone and they chose to go with their party.
"They need to stand up for the people who they were voted in by.”
Cr Collins said category D funding was vital for economic growth and prosperity in the region, and to lessen the burden on ratepayers.
"If we can't get funding for it, it's all got to come out of local council money. It's not an endless pit unfortunately - we need as much help as we can get.”
He said Proserpine residents had suffered enough hardships since the cyclone, particularly those still battling for a resolution with their insurance company.
"I know of one bloke who has been living in a camping trailer for the last three months. These sort of things just aren't on.
"People are now really struggling. Money from insurance companies for rental assistance is running out and their houses haven't even been started.
"It's an absolute joke. It's terrible. People are going from place to place with nowhere to live.”
Cr Collins believed insurance companies should have learned their lessons from the devastating impact that Cyclone Larry had on Innisfail in 2006.
"We know we had a couple of problems during the cyclone in regards to communications and straight away we knew we had to fix that. That should be what the insurance companies are doing, getting out there and saying 'we see a problem, we'll fix it up so it doesn't happen again'.”
Overall however, CrCollins said he was determined to remain positive six months on from the disaster.
He's excited about the projects in the council's soon-to-be-approved master plan.
They include the water park, which he's hoping will be open by Easter, a new information centre, the development of the Peter Faust Dam and a free RV-friendly stop on the corner of Taylor St and the Bruce Highway.
"Just hang in there,” said Cr Collins when asked for his message to residents.
"It's not going to happen overnight, so we've just got to keep pushing and hoping for the best.”