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31 May, 2022

Hope remains for new route

HOPE for an alternative road linking Mareeba and Cairns has not been extinguished with Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch willing to carry the torch and vowing to continue the fight and push the Federal Government to commit to a business case study on alternative routes.

By Rhys Thomas

Prior to the federal election, former Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Barnaby Joyce travelled to Mareeba to pledge $11 million for a business case study into proposed alternative routes. 

The Reddicliffe Highway Steering Committee and a representative pushing the Saddle Mountain Road option were both given a hearing by Mr Joyce. 

By comparison, Labor pledged a $210m safety upgrade plan for the Kuranda Range Road which included lane widening, additional guard rails and more, but there was an absence of any commitment to alternative access. 

Mr Entsch said he planned to appeal to the Labor Government to use $11 million of its pledge to fund a business case study into alternative routes to link the Tablelands to the coast. 

Meanwhile returning Kennedy MP Bob Katter has remained firm on his Bridle Track proposal and would “fight” Labor’s decision to widen the Kuranda Range Road. Mr Entsch is no stranger to the Opposition bench, serving as the chief opposition officer during the hung Gillard Government from 2010-2013. 

During this time, Mr Entsch said he grew to understand the value of working with both parties to get things done and vowed to continue to fight to get a business case study done and a potential alternative route costed. 

“In relation to the alternative route there is no other option, they did not commit to an alternative, they put $210m into safety on the existing route – that does not fix the problem,” Mr Entsch said. 

“I am more than happy to sit down with them and say, ‘you have got $210m committed, give us $11m of that, get $11m off the State and let’s get into the work and get the engineering and costing into an alternative done’. 

“Taking $11m out of $210m for a safety commitment for the Kuranda Range is not going to be a problem, that money is not going to spent too soon. 

“Let us get this thing done, let us get it costed and have it ready to go as an election commitment in relation to the initial funding for the next federal election in 2025.” 

FNQROC chair Michael Kerr said the pledge for the business case study falling through was disheartening however they will continue to fight for a study to be done. 

“It’s disappointing, however our focus is on the future and seeking a commitment from both current State and Federal Governments to undertake this,” he said.

 “We will continue advocating for a solution to the efficiency (B-Double access) and capacity issues of this corridor. 

“We are currently in Brisbane meeting with State Ministers and Shadow Ministers and this is one of our key discussion points – we will also continue our advocacy on this at the Federal level.” 

A revision of FNQ Regional Plan remains on the table and FNQROC has been advised by Deputy Queensland Premier Steven Miles that a revision will take place in August. A changing of the parliamentarian guard has not deterred Reddicliffe Committee member Ken Harley and his associates from pushing their highway proposal. 

Mr Harley firmly believes that it does not matter who is in government, the Kuranda Range Road is an issue and must be addressed. 

“If you have got a leaky water tank you fix the leak, it does not matter who owns the farm – it does not matter who is in government, this road is an issue,” he said.

 “Collect all the facts and get them all together and you will discover that the existing Kuranda route just will not work – it is not working now it will not work for the future – that is a fact you cannot get around. 

“Parliament may have changed but the problem is still there, it needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed urgently.” 

Mr Harley and the committee have decided to “let the dust settle” before pushing their proposal further.

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