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MORE than 900 North Queensland jobs could be lost if a proposed Darwin rail link supersedes an upgrade of the Townsville to Mount Isa rail line.
An economic impact statement undertaken by AEC has revealed that if the proposed Mount Isa to Darwin Railway proceeds, Townsville risks losing all economic activity supported by the North West Minerals Province (NWMP).
The report was commissioned by Townsville Enterprise in September with the tourism and business body campaigning for the corridor’s upgrade to be prioritised by the next state government.
Townsville Enterprise CEO Patricia O’Callaghan said if the Darwin to Mount Isa development proceeded it would put hundreds of jobs at risk.
“The existing supply chain relationship between the NWMP and Townsville, … through the Mount Isa-Townsville Economic Development Zone region, is a major driver of economic activity within … North Queensland,” she said.
“A new corridor, into another state, puts all of those jobs at risk, as well as halving the Port of Townsville’s trade.
“It simply does not make sense that Queensland stakeholders would be supportive of this process.”
Townsville Enterprise CEO Patricia O’Callaghan said if the Darwin to Mount Isa development proceeded it would put hundreds of jobs at risk.A lack of reinvestment into the Townsville to Mount Isa line has led to inefficiencies in train speed and the movement of freight, forcing resources to be transported via road.
The Northern Territory and Queensland governments are currently undertaking a feasibility study into establishing a new rail line linking the NWMP to the Port of Darwin.
The $2 billion to $3 billion project is aimed at expanding the Mount Isa to Townsville Railway to Tennant Creek and joining it to the existing Tarcoola to Darwin Railway in the Northern Territory.
However, the NWMP currently exports about $4 billion in mineral commodities product through Townsville’s port.
It also produces $426.7 million in output and $141.2 million in gross regional product in North Queensland.
Economic projections for the MITEZ region have also indicated that the value of the NWMP could increase significantly to 2050 as mining recovery takes place.
“The mining sector is recovering,” Ms O’Callaghan said.
“This week alone MMG will open a $1.7 billion project in Cloncurry. Why would the Queensland Government push these mines to use a different port to export their products?”
Townsville Enterprise director for policy and investment Michael McMillan sits on the North West Minerals Province Infrastructure User Group.
“The Mount Isa to Townsville rail line is a nationally recognised Queensland state asset that is not operating to its full potential,” he said.
“We desperately need a long-term approach adopted to financially support the operating and funding model for this critical freight corridor to efficiently support mining, agriculture and manufacturing industries in our region.”
When asked whether the State Government would prioritise the rail line, Townsville MP Scott Stewart said Labor had invested $68 million during the last financial year.
“I think the proof is what we’ve invested in the last financial year (2015-16) and that shows our commitment and continued commitment,” he said. “We know the value that it brings particularly to Townsville. We are waiting on the feasibility into Townsville Eastern Access Rail Corridor.”
This article first appeared on www.townsvillebulletin.com.au
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