16 March, 2022
Range road hope rests on Joyce visit
PLANS for an alternative route from Mareeba to Cairns will soon be seen by the Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Transport Minister Barnaby Joyce, who is expected to touch down in Mareeba in the coming weeks.
The visit comes on the back of an urgent request by Mareeba Shire Council for Mr Joyce to visit the town to discuss the important issue of road access from the Northern Tablelands to Cairns, and after Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch made a personal plea to him to come north.
Mr Entsch has also made a commitment that Mr Joyce will meet with the Reddicliffe Highway Steering Committee to discuss their alternative link to the coast in lieu of the Kuranda Range Road.
Mr Entsch has been very vocal in his support for the Reddicliffe Highway and for several years he has been trying to get the Kennedy Highway between Cairns and Mareeba declared a road of strategic importance.
Only recently, State Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey wrote to Mr Joyce asking the Federal Government to declare the route a road of strategic importance, a decision that would enable substantial funding to come from the Federal Government in an 80:20 split with the State.
Mr Entsch has described the proposed hand-off of the road to the Federal Government as a “significant step in the right direction”.
Following on from that decision, Mareeba Shire Council made its urgent request at a recent council meeting, prompted by the release of the long-awaited $1.6 million Northern Tablelands to Cairns Access Report which revealed that an alternative route would not be required for another three decades.
At the time, Mareeba Mayor Angela Toppin said the study had fallen short in addressing the transport needs of the region and expressed concern that development in the region would be constrained as a result.
Mareeba’s Chamber of Commerce chair Joe Moro also slammed the study outcome, saying the conclusions were “beyond belief” and “totally disappointing”.
“The government said we couldn’t have the Kur-World development because the road could not take extra capacity so that development was lost and now they say the road won’t reach capacity until 2050 – you can’t have it both ways, it’s laughable,” he said.
Hope for action now rests with Mr Joyce declaring the road one of strategic importance and leaders are keen to hear how and when that might happen.
“I’ve personally spoken to Barnaby, and I have a request from the Mareeba Shire Council – I’ve asked Barnaby to come up for a couple of days to meet with council,” Mr Entsch said.
“He’s keen on it, I’ve had a number of discussions with him and he’s very keen to fly up.
“I’ve also committed to making sure that he meets with the Reddicliffe Highway Steering Committee and to have a look at their proposal.”
It is expected Mr Joyce will make the trip after the Federal Budget is released on 29 March.