- Monday 14 March 2016
The Queensland Government has again overlooked the needs of the Sunshine Coast with the release of its State Infrastructure Plan at the weekend, Mayor Mark Jamieson said.
While Mayor Jamieson welcomed the commitments made to the Sunshine Coast, he said “it really is a case of far too little and wrong priorities”.
“Last month, Infrastructure Australia identified in the Australian Infrastructure Plan that the functionality, vitality and performance of Australia’s cities are the cornerstone for productivity and the health of the Australian economy,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“The Australian Infrastructure Plan identified the core focal cities for the productivity of the Australian economy as being the eight State and territory capitals and five adjacent areas – including the Sunshine Coast.
“Infrastructure Australia specifically recommended that “The cities of Newcastle, Wollongong, Geelong, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast should be supported by governments, business and local communities to grow their populations and economies”.
“Obviously, the Queensland Government chose not to read this report,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“The Queensland Government’s own statisticians have identified the Sunshine Coast as one of the fastest growing regions in Queensland, increasing to nearly half a million people in the next 20 years.
“Yet the State Government is not shouldering its responsibilities when it comes to critical state infrastructure like road, rail and public transport.
“When the State’s draft Infrastructure Plan was released in October, both myself and council’s Chief Executive Officer spoke with the Deputy Premier and many of the State Government Directors-General and highlighted our council’s particular concerns that there were no public transport commitments nominated for the Sunshine Coast.
“Our council identified five critical transport infrastructure needs that are the responsibility of the State that we wanted to see incorporated into the final Plan - with clear commitments.”
Mayor Jamieson said these were:
- Mooloolah River Interchange
- A high priority bus connection service between Caloundra and Maroochydore, including connection to the Sunshine Coast University Hospitals – as an important “forerunner” to a light rail solution
- Caloundra Access Roads Upgrade
- North Coast Rail Line duplication from Beerburrum to Nambour
- Expansion of the Bruce Highway to six lanes from Caboolture to Caloundra Road (which is a shared responsibility with the Federal Government).
“No firm commitments or time frames have come through in the Infrastructure Plan to any of these essential projects – leaving the residents of the Sunshine Coast in limbo yet again,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“The commitment to fund intersection upgrades at Kawana Way and Nicklin Way near the hospital are welcome, but there is very little information on what is planned and they won’t address the fundamental problem.
“The Mooloolah River Interchange project is desperately needed given Kawana Way is already exceeding capacity, the Sunshine Motorway/Nicklin Way/Mooloolah River crossing is no longer coping with current, let alone, future, traffic volumes and there are major risks of accessibility to the hospital site in instances of life threatening emergencies.
“The Government’s North Coast Rail Line capacity improvement project also appears to be exclusively targeted at rail infrastructure in Townsville.
“Last month, Infrastructure Australia identified the upgrade of the North Coast Rail Line from Beerburrum to Nambour as a priority project that if not addressed in the next five years, will have a material impact on national productivity.
“The State Government has seen fit however, to make no firm commitment to this project at this time.
“The single track 1880s alignment of the North Coast Rail Line between Beerburrum and Nambour is a joke for a State that wants to position itself as a leading edge economy that generates jobs.
“This is the state’s primary rail corridor, providing a critical link to major regional centres, coastal ports and connection to rural Queensland.
“Successive studies by the State Government show that a major impediment to the rail corridor’s performance is congestion between Brisbane and Nambour - with the most severe congestion between Caboolture and Nambour.
“This is diverting freight to road based transport, increasing the cost to transport to market or ports and is impacting significantly on the Bruce Highway.”
Council CEO Michael Whittaker said that some clearer signals were required in the State Infrastructure Plan around projects like the Sunshine Coast Light Rail and the Entertainment, Convention and Exhibition Centre if the private sector was to be given any real encouragement or certainty to invest.
“The Sunshine Coast community expects the Federal, State and local governments to deliver on their respective infrastructure responsibilities,” Mr Whittaker said.
“The State Government however, doesn’t appear to be responding to this community’s needs through its Infrastructure Plan.”
Mayor Jamieson – who has been lobbying the Palaszczuk Government hard since its election in early 2015 for a better infrastructure deal for the Sunshine Coast – has questioned the political motivations around the Plan.
“Last week, we saw the Government allocate another $120 million to increase its commitment to the Ipswich Motorway upgrade to $200 million,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“We have also seen the Government commit $100 million to a second stadium in Townsville.
“In the lead up to the 2015 State election, I pointed out to all candidates - and to the Deputy Premier subsequently - that the State’s own budget papers for the six budgets from 2009 show that the Sunshine Coast ranked last in terms of capital expenditure by the government over that period when compared with the Gold Coast, the Far North based around Cairns, North Queensland centred around Townsville and the Darling Downs.
“However, the Sunshine Coast is a larger population centre and is growing at a faster rate than Cairns, Townsville and the Darling Downs.
“Despite the considerable efforts by council, it would appear that because the Sunshine Coast is represented at a state level by LNP members and one Independent, our needs are overlooked again,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“The one piece of optimism is that the State has agreed to update the Infrastructure Plan every year.
“Our council will work closely with the Queensland Government and will not rest until we get a commitment to the long overdue infrastructure that the residents and businesses of this region rightly deserve.”