Community & Business

18 June, 2024

Cook’s critical needs ignored

TWO new playgrounds, a multipurpose health centre at Cooktown and an art centre in Coen are among projects that been funded in Cook electorate as part of the State Budget, but community and political leaders are disappointed that more money has not been found for other projects including the replacement of the Barron River bridge and an upgrade for Mareeba Hospital.

Cook’s critical needs ignored - feature photo

Member for Cook Cynthia Lui explained the budget would provide $200 million to redevelop the old Cooktown facility into a modern health complex.

“I’ve been fighting for people on Cape York and I’m so proud we’re building a new $200 million Cooktown Hospital….we are (also) investing millions into health staff accommodation in remote communities such as Hope Vale, Laura and Bamaga,” she said.

“I’m also pleased to see $6.7 million in the budget this year for the construction of the Coen Art Centre. This centre will add to the cultural tourism experiences for visitors making the pilgrimage up to the Tip.”

Ms Lui said $2.2 million of a total $4 million would support cane growers in Mossman to transport cane for crushing to the Mulgrave Mill.

Mareeba State School will get a new playground and ($409,000) and Mount Molloy a new playground and facilities ($500,000). Ms Lui also reannounced money that will go towards supporting Mareeba sporting clubs, including the Bulls and the tennis club.

But with only $15 million allocated to finish the business case for the Barron River bridge, and no new money for the Mareeba Hospital and long-awaited Mareeba Bypass, community and political leaders are disappointed.

“It is disappointing to see that the was no additional funding allocated to the Mareeba Hospital,” Mareeba Mayor Angela Toppin said.

“While we welcome the modest increase to the Transport Infrastructure Development Scheme (TIDS), it was unfortunate to see that no funding was dedicated for the Mareeba Bypass project or sealing for Burke Developmental Road.”

Ms Lui said the Mareeba Hospital had “been identified as a priority facility for partial refurbishment” and cited $6 million which had been spent upgrading parts of the facility since 2020.

“We are looking to the future for Mareeba Hospital, including investigating options the establishment of a local dialysis services in Mareeba,” she said.

On the bypass, Ms Lui said the project was the focus of a $2.2 million planning exercise being conducted by Main Roads to confirm the alignment for the heavy vehicle bypass. 

“The current planning study, which will be completed soon, is reviewing the alignment in identifying a viable delivery strategy. This planning will dictate the funding requirements and I will fight hard for reliable and road transport between Cairns and the Tablelands as this is crucial for our agricultural industry, tourism and economic development more generally,” she said.

Mayor Toppin welcomed the last remaining funds to complete the business case to replace the bridge at Kuranda while vowing to continue to put pressure to get it done as quickly as possible.

“I have spoken to the Transport and Main Roads Minister Bart Mellish to express our concerns around the reliability of the bridge,” she said.

“The Minister is aware of the problem and while we do not know what the timelines will be, the State will review the results of the business case carefully.”

“Council will continue to advocate for a safer and more reliable transport route between the Mareeba Shire and Cairns and stress the importance of fast-tracking the replacement of the Barron River bridge.”

Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said the region had been overlooked in the government’s “Big Build” budget, with critically needed infrastructure not funded.

“Where is the new funding for the much-needed upgrades to the Kuranda Range? Where is the planning for an alternative route to the Tablelands?” he said.

“These issues are absolutely crucial for the safety and economic vitality of our region.”

Another glaring oversight in the funding program was the absence of new funding to complete the sealing of the Peninsula Development Road. 

“We’ve just experienced a prolonged wet season, along with impacts from Cyclone Jasper, there is no doubt the PDR will require additional funds – so where are they? The PDR is vital to the connectivity and economic development of Cape York. It’s a telling sign of where the priorities lie for the current State Government,” Mr Entsch said.


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