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14 June, 2022

Truck stop disgrace

Residents wants facility moved amidst claims of ‘cancer causing cocktail’

By Robyn Holmes

Trucks hauling sugar bins are a common sight at the truck stop on the Mulligan Highway near the McGrath Road turn-off, causing nearby residents to be up in arms over noise, dust, and diesel fumes.

A TRUCK stop on the Mulligan Highway near the turnoff to McGrath Road is giving nearby residents grief who say they are sick and tired of being blasted by continual noise and a “deadly cancer- causing cocktail” of dust, diesel particles and fumes day and night. 

Well-known writer Dick Eussen has lived in the area for 17 years and been fighting to get the truck stop moved for many years, and now activity at the roadside area has increased markedly due to trucks carrying sugar bins using it 24 hours a day. 

Mr Eussen has written numerous emails and letters to the Department of Transport and Main Roads, Mareeba Shire Council, the Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey and even the Queensland Premier trying to get someone to listen to residents’ concerns. 

“The site has been an ongoing issue for 15 years that I know of. 

Currently, cane hauling trucks have turned it into a transfer, field workshop and supply base of their own, turning it into a 24/7 operation during cane season,” he said. 

“Along with normal transport operations to the Cape and Northern Gulf, there is not enough space and trucks are now using the ‘nature’ strips that have turned into bulldust.” 

He said residents were being treated like “second class citizens with lies and promises”, with both council and DTMR “blaming each other for this monstrous debacle”. 

“This is a health matter because the site has outgrown its original intention and now we have dozens of trucks competing for space, each one emitting cancerous diesel fumes mixed with the thick bulldust churned up by the wheels accompanied by the noise of reverse horns, shunting, shouting, engines and air and engine brakes,” Mr Eussen said. 

He claims the previous council had some success in not allowing the cane trucks to utilise the truck stop but the trucking company had now “taken it over as a staging and relay depot” by storing and parking both full and empty cane bins there. 

“This means the trucks are operating continuously on the site and causing extreme stress to residents because of the dust, diesel fumes and noise pollution,” he said.

He said due to the pollution, he could no longer use the water from his rain tank as it was covered with a sludge and undrinkable, and his solar panels were also coated with a film of dust and diesel particles which had cost him dearly to have cleaned.

Mr Eussen also complained that drivers were using the area as an outdoor toilet, with no ablution block available. 

DTMR district director Ross Hodgman has responded to Mr Eussen’s complaints and call for the truck stop to be moved to an area where there is no residential housing, writing a letter in March 2022 to advise him that a barrier will be installed on the edge of the sealed section to prevent trucks from parking on the grassed area to help contain dust within the site. 

Despite promising the fence will be erected by April, it still has not been done and Mr Eussen thinks it will be a waste of time anyway. 

“They put a fence there before and the trucks just drove over it and knocked it down so it was removed,” he said. 

“And it won’t fix the noise and diesel fumes we get every day.” 

In a letter to Mr Eussen in November 2021 by Mareeba Shire Council’s director of infrastructure services Glenda Kirk, she acknowledged the truck stop had been an issue for many years. 

“Council has received numerous complaints regarding this matter and has been advocating for DTMR to address the issue for many years,” she wrote. 

“Council is aware that DTMR has identified a potential location for a new heavy vehicle rest area near Biboohra which would enable permanent closure of the existing truck pad near McGrath Road, however, DTMR has previously advised council that no funding presently exists for the project.” 

In his letter in March this year, Mr Hodgeman confirmed the department would continue to apply for funding to construct an alternate heavy rest vehicle area. 

But Mr Eussen is unimpressed with the response, describing it as a short term solution at best and accusing the government of prioritising funding for projects in the south-east of the State over the needs of people in Mareeba.

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