The Federal Government has continued its slate of pre-election pledges with a series of investments worth $730 million for transport infrastructure in North Queensland.
The funding aims to seal or upgrade around 700km of road to open up the region to more traffic and business.
The investments will concentrate on strategic corridors that will help spur new business and new jobs in North Queensland, including:
- Townsville to Tennant Creek – $200 million
- Yeppoon to Mount Isa – $190 million
- Cooktown to Weipa – $190 million
- Townsville to Roma – $100 million
- Cairns to the Northern Territory border (Savannah Way) – $50 million
These road upgrades will help North Queensland recover from some of the worst floods in its history by better connecting western parts of Queensland to the coast.
The scale of the combined projects is equivalent to building a new road from the Gold Coast to Rockhampton.
The Federal Government said it was the first government for decades to invest significantly in east-to-west infrastructure in Queensland, and not just along the coast.
There are three key outcomes for the investments:
- Create the first sealed inland highway from Cairns to Melbourne by completing the Hann Highway. This will cut 12 hours off the drive from Mareeba to Melbourne meaning greater business for banana, avocado and other fruit and vegetable growing businesses
- Cut costs for Queensland cattle producers. For example, the sealing of the Springsure to Tambo route will cut 8 hours off a round trip and save almost $1400 per trip, meaning greater returns for Queensland farmers. In total, the CSIRO estimates that this road upgrade will save Queensland’s agriculture industry $4.6 million a year. This investment will also keep this important route open more often. Since 2010 the Springsure to Tambo Road has been closed 21 times
- Open up Queensland to more visits from tourists. The investments will upgrade the iconic 3,500 kilometre Savannah Way that connects Cairns to Broome, creating greater opportunities for tourists to see Georgetown, Normanton and Burketown, all places that have been hit hard by recent floods.
The new work will provide an inland alternative to the Bruce Highway, offer safer roads for local residents, cut hours in driving time and thousands of dollars in costs for truck drivers, and bring millions of dollars in tourist spending to remote and regional communities.
Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said the Roads of Strategic Importance (ROSI) initiative funding would make roads safer and boost productivity.
“By making the freight system more efficient, local businesses will also have more money to invest in their operations, creating more jobs and providing a vital shot in the arm for the agriculture and mining sectors, which are so important to Central and North Queensland jobs and communities,” Mr McCormack said.
Speaking in Townsville, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, said the investments would help North Queensland recover and rebuild from the devastating floods it recently experienced.
“Roads are the arteries of lifeblood for these communities and better roads will get their communities pumping again,” Mr Canavan said.
“We will build on our efforts to ensure that work on these roads goes to local communities, as we have done through the Beef Roads and Northern Australia Roads program. This will provide more jobs and more economic activity in regional towns.
“The funding also includes substantial investments in Central Queensland and recognises the corridor of commerce that exists between the mines of Mount Isa and the beaches and islands of Yeppoon.”
This latest spending adds to the dedicated funding provided for roads in Northern Australia through the Beef Roads program ($100 million) and the Northern Australia Roads Program ($600 million).
The Federal Government is making a $3.5 billion nationwide investment over the next decade through the Roads of Strategic Importance program, ensuring the nation’s key freight roads efficiently connect agricultural and mining regions to ports, airports and other transport hubs.
The Government has set aside $1.5 billion of the ROSI program for Northern Australia.
The Liberal-National Government has already committed around $3.9 billion in funding for major projects on the Bruce Highway through North Queensland.
Further announcements about specific roadworks to be funded in North Queensland under the ROSI program will be made in coming weeks.