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UPGRADING the rail link between Mount Isa and Townsville is among the projects North Queensland leaders would like to see funded in the upcoming State Budget.
Queensland Treasurer Jackie Trad is set to hand down her first budget today and North Queenslanders are demanding their fair share.
Townsville Enterprise CEO Patricia O’Callaghan said for North Queensland, the key test for any budget was job creation and investment.
“Our region still has high unemployment and we need to see commitments towards projects and policies that will stimulate jobs, investment and confidence,” Ms O’Callaghan said.
“We acknowledge that the challenges in our region will not be fixed overnight, but greater public investment into a pipeline of projects will not only create jobs immediately, but set the roadmap for our future.”
Ms O’Callaghan said priorities that required government funding include the Mount Isa to Townsville Supply Chain, lowering energy prices, the fast tracking of Townsville’s $225M water pipeline, regulating the Mount Isa to Townsville Air route to decease the cost of airfares, and tourism infrastructure.
”The Mount Isa to Townsville supply chain is an important link into one of the richest mineral provinces in the world, yet it is not working effectively nor efficiently,” she said.
“We need to address the cost of access and ensure rail is the most cost-effective option to transport products between the regions.”
Katter’s Australian Party MP’s Robbie Katter, Shane Knuth and Nick Dametto also identified the Townsville to Mount Isa rail line as a priority and said funding should be allocated to reduce regulatory charges on rail.
They called for government support to ensure construction of high voltage electricity transmission line to connect the North West Minerals Province to the National Electricity Market.
They also identified the high cost of regional airfares and said incentives should be provided to attract new airlines to the regions.
Water licensing in North West Queensland was also a priority, as was funding to establish a Hell’s Gate Dam Authority group.
Youth crime was also a concern and they called on the government to implement their relocation sentencing policy to aid in the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.
They also asked for $250,000 to create an independent body to investigate establishing a separate North Queensland state.
Feral animals and weeds were also a concern, with KAP calling for increased funding to control feral pigs and dogs and invasive weeds like prickly acacia and navua sedge.
Burdekin MP and Opposition spokesman for North Dale Last said he feared the budget would feature very little for Regional Queensland.
“All I ask is that we get our fair share of the pie,” Mr Last said.
Mr Last said funding was required for several road upgrades in his vast electorate, including upgrading the Bruce Highway with construction of turning lanes into Gumlu and Alligator Creek and additional passing lanes.
Upgrades to boat ramps, sport precincts, community halls and police and ambulance stations were also priorities.
Mr Last said his top priority was $50,000 for a pre-feasibility study into a Food Processing Plant in Bowen.
“The Food Processing Plant would create jobs and diversification for the horticulture industry in Bowen and the surrounding areas,” Mr Last said.
“I have been very realistic in what I want for my electorate; the projects are about protecting the community, opportunities and realistic improvements to facilities.”
This article first appeared on www.northqueenslandregister.com.au
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