Community & Business

8 March, 2022

Environmental expert gives road proposal tick

AN environmental expert has shared his views on the “typical mess” that is the Kuranda Range Road and shined a light on the new Reddicliffe Highway proposal, suggesting the next step forward.

By Rhys Thomas

John Brisbin has devoted years of his life to the study and understanding of Australia’s environment. He sits on multiple environmental boards and committees and most recently became a supporter of the Reddicliffe Highway and its steering committee. 

As an environmentally focused information technology specialist, Mr Brisbin did the initial mapping of the proposed Reddicliffe Highway route, following the contours of the mountains and finding the best possible path without too much elevation gain. 

While the road does go through the Wet Tropics, Mr Brisbin points out that the potential route does not pass through “virgin” ground. 

“It does go through World Heritage area – there is no doubt about that – but it is important to recognise that the area is already highly disturbed, it is not going through a lot of pristine country,” he said. 

“We have to recognise the reality that the country is already pretty well chopped up and is in no way virgin country. 

“That’s doesn’t necessarily mean you want to go in there and cause a mess and Queensland has a terrible track record with producing new projects that are environmentally sensitive. 

“My concern is, without having done any scientific studies, that all parties in the community actually come together and discuss it in a positive way.” 

The current route from the northern Tablelands to Cairns is the Kennedy Highway and the Kuranda Range Road, a route which Mr Brisbin describes as a “typical mess”. 

“It was never designed properly in the first place, it has always been done with an eye towards the money factor as opposed to the public good factor,” he said. 

“It is a terrible highway at the moment and it would be good to see something better than that. 

“The existing highway was never designed with environmental considerations in mind, and it goes through one of the narrowest parts of the Wet Tropics. 

“It has no provisions for wildlife, you can already tell that by the number of cassowary deaths.” 

Mr Brisbin has suggested contacting researchers at James Cook University to get them involved in the Reddicliffe Highway proposal. 

He said JCU has some of the world’s leading researchers on the impacts of roads on wilderness areas, but they are also the biggest critics for new roads in these areas. 

“We really need to have those people come to the table and help make this be the best it possibly could be,” Mr Brisbin said. 

“JCU in particular are specialists in the hazards and problems of roads, so they would be the best critics and in a way that is what you want. 

“You want to have the world’s leading critics to say these are all the possible things that could go wrong and if we orient ourselves towards ‘let’s find a solution’ we are just going to get a better outcome.

“I don’t think anyone has detailed technical knowledge at this stage, so really we are not at the point of comparing data, we are at the point of getting the broad structure of the debate in place and that is why it is important to get these strong critical voices in early on.”


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