Newsroom

KAP: TMR must prioritise major road projects in disaster prone FNQ

Feb 29, 2024

Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) MP’s have travelled to Cairns this week to meet with Far Northern community representatives frustrated by the significant delays and impediments of many vital road infrastructure projects that link Cairns to prime agricultural areas north and west of the city.

The discussions centred around projects essential for Cairns and inland areas, namely the Cairns Western Arterial Road and the need for the Bridle Track tunnel to create an alternative heavy freight route linking the coast directly to the Tablelands.

The Western Arterial Road currently hampers accessibility to the north and west of Cairns and limits the economic opportunities that could exist with greater connectivity. Combined with infrastructure gaps on the Palmerston, Gillies and Kuranda ranges, critical freight and transport options in and out of Cairns can at times come to a standstill.

KAP Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter said that Queensland owns a quarter of the Nation’s road infrastructure and yet is the most decentralised State in terms of its road network.

“Far North Queensland and North Western Queensland bear the cost of a dysfunctional road funding model driven by votes in the cities, which sees billions poured into big ticket projects such as the cross-river rail, which lack a credible business case and present questionable economic value to the State,” Mr Katter said.

“Meanwhile key freight corridors such as the Flinders and Palmerston Highways which carry $9 billion worth of produce every year are two of the poorest maintained highways in the State.

“When the Palmerston closed, freight was redirected over the State’s actual worst highway, the Gregory Development Road, which is so narrow trucks pass within inches of each other and frequently end up in the ditch.”

Hinchinbrook MP and KAP Deputy Leader Nick Dametto said the Bridle Track Tunnel held immense promise for the north, potentially opening up unrestricted access to the western precincts of the dividing range.

“A tunnel through the range would be transformative for North and Far North Queensland,” Mr Dametto said.

“Tunnels are something that seem to be reserved for the elite south-east but it’s high time that the rest of the State began to have a share of what is a luxury to Brisbane but a necessity in disaster prone areas up here in the north.

“This year after Cyclone Jasper, the only road open out of Cairns was to the South, and even that option only got people so far before being cut again.

“At Tully and Ingham, flood immunity projects previously funded for construction have also been put on the back burner and regularly impact passage on the Bruce Highway to Cairns just as they did following Jasper.

“This is inexcusable when you see multibillion dollar tunnels being built in Brisbane all in the name of getting people home 15 minutes earlier from their daily commute. Up here in the North we need tunnels just for our survival and to give our regions the best possible chance at commercial and economic viability.

‘This dialogue we’re getting from the Queensland Government about cost blow outs and under funding for previously full funded projects simply doesn’t stand up against the billions of dollars haemorrhaging into Brisbane’s infrastructure projects.

“The Miles Ministry also visited Cairns this week to make various announcements but not one of them was from the Transport and Main Roads Minister.”

KAP Member for Hill Shane Knuth MP said that three major highways closed in the wake of Cyclone Jasper, blocking off access to vital travel, transport and freight.

“The effects of Cylcone Jasper highlighted the drastic need for a quick, fast tracked in-land highway from Cairns to the Tablelands, which is long overdue, and something we continue to fight for,” Mr Knuth said.

“Better roads and connectivity are nation building projects that require guts and foresight, which this Government is sorely lacking.

“The Kuranda range for instance is closed on average 44 times per year and the best the State Government can come up with is installing speed monitoring cameras, which is at best a band aid solution.

“A more reliable, time saving and safer road such as the Bridle track would open up the Tablelands to increased tourism and agricultural opportunities and pump billions more revenue into the State’s economy.”

The Party looks forward to soon announcing their new candidate for the seat of Cook at the October 2024 State election who can continue to represent the KAP and advocate for better road transport infrastructure in the Far North.

Photo: Hill MP Shane Knuth, KAP Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter, KAP Deputy Leader and Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto.