What an amazing year 2017 has been! Together we’ve achieved a lot for Leichhardt, and I thank you for your contribution in helping grow our magical tropical region so that it may realise its full potential, not just as a natural beauty, but also as a place where jobs are increasing, the economy is growing, tourism and other industries are expanding, and we are all benefiting well into the future.
The end of the year is an opportune time to reflect on the year that has passed and celebrate the achievements we have made.
I am pleased all my election promises have all been approved and delivered with Federal Funding. These include:
- $24 million for the upgrade to the Cairns Marine Precinct. Agreements have been signed with Norship Marine, BSE Cairns Slipways and Tropical Reef Shipyard, which will each receive around $8 million, to construct new wharves and slipway rail, upgrade electrical, fire and security systems, a workshop, and hardstand resurfacing.
- $10 million for the Cairns Innovation Centre at James Cook University (JCU). The new centre will host collaborations between JCU researchers and local businesses and identify new career pathways, new business possibilities and models, and assist in the commercialisation of local innovations.
- $6.745 million for the water supply reservoir at Port Douglas. This project will double local water storage capacity to meet the future needs of Port Douglas and Craiglie. It will also create more than 30 jobs during the 18 month construction period, and 40 full time new jobs per year as a result of the investment. Works on the reservoir are due to be completed in early 2018.
- $2.7 million for the upgrade of Cairns Hockey Association (CHA) facilities in North Cairns. This investment in infrastructure will position CHA as a world-class venue to deliver a range of hockey events ranging from local to international games. It will also encourage local young people to get involved in sport and promote a healthy and active lifestyle for all.
- $1.5 million for the COUCH Cancer Help & Wellness Centre. The Reservoir Rd centre in Manoora was the brainchild of the late Charles Woodward, a local philanthropist and businessman who lost his battle with cancer in May this year. The wellness centre is part one of plans for the COUCH site. Space adjacent to the centre has been set aside for commercial health development and two charity precincts.
- $1.5 million for the Cairns Basketball Incorporated Facility Expansion. Works at the Aumuller St complex will include a new basketball court, specialised sports science building, and redevelopment of the existing Court 1 to international standards to make it compliant for launching a bid for a Cairns-based WNBL team.
- $60,000 for The Junction Clubhouse Kitchen Refurbishment. The Junction helps people recovering from mental illness to transition back into the community through informal social gatherings, finding accommodation and employment and teaching them new skills. The kitchen upgrade will help The Junction generate income by providing catering services, venue hire, and hospitality training.
- $50,000 for the Wangetti Trail concept plan. The 76km bike track will stretch along the coast between Palm Cove and Port Douglas, and is estimated to attract 28,000 riders and walkers per annum, create 74 new jobs, and pump $10.4 million directly into the local economy every year.
- $40,000 for Cooktown District Community Centre (CDCC) – Social Enterprise Training Café. The CDCC will focus on vulnerable people, especially youth, to boost their skills and chances of getting a job. It’s goal is to employ, train, and apprentice people in the food and hospitality industry, retail, arts, event coordination and other regional sectors that have high labour needs and challenges.
On top of my election commitments, there have been many other projects that I have delivered.
- A $58 million upgrade of the Bruce Highway from four to six lanes between Robert Road and Foster Road. The upgrade also includes wide centrelines, new turning lanes, and better lighting along five kilometres of the highway between Gordonvale and Edmonton. This is a game change for the 36 thousand motorists who use the Cairns Southern Access daily, as well as freight and tourism operators.
- A $24 million Australian Defence contract awarded to Austal to provide support services for the existing Pacific-class and new Pacific Patrol Boats for an initial seven years in Cairns. Support services will start early 2018. Together with the Cairns Marine Precinct upgrade this will cement our city as the major hub for marine maintenance and sustainment in Northern Australia.
- The $24.5 million construction of Saibai Island’s Seawalls in the Torres Strait. The much needed seawalls, which I officially opened in July this year, helps protect homes and critical infrastructure, such as the school and airstrip, from storm surges and king tides.
- $12 million for the creation of a new AFL Cape York House for Girls. This will support young Indigenous women to reach their full potential and secure their future in Far North Queensland.
- $10 million towards construction of the Cairns Innovation Centre at James Cook University (JCU). A decision on when building will commence is up to JCU.
- $10 million secured funding for construction of the Cairns Performing Arts Centre, which will create jobs, increase entertainment options, and help create a cultural precinct in the CBD.
- $4.4 million towards the construction of an $8.8 million Spinal Life and Healthy Living Centre in Cairns North. The centre will include supported transitional, respite and holiday accommodation, a full suite of specialised allied health services, a hydrotherapy pool, and a gymnasium.
- $2.4 million for a Mookai Rosie project to address family violence experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children in Cairns and Cape York.
- $2 million for the Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (PHN) to continue essential GP services and reduce pressure on Mareeba Hospital’s Emergency Department.
- Almost $1.6 million towards the construction of the Mapoon Accommodation project at Westcourt, which will provide 8 critically needed units with a central BBQ/outdoor area for visiting workers and service delivery agencies.
- $1.125 million towards a Douglas Shire Council project to renew the Noah Creek Bridge at Cape Tribulation
- Almost $1 million for the establishment of a Reef and Rainforest education centre at the Cairns Aquarium. This will help bring more tourists and jobs to our region, and teach visitors about the Great Barrier Reef.
- $601,000 for Hudson Machinery Hire in Kowanyama. The money will allow the local Aboriginal business to purchase a grader, water truck and solid drum roller to improve its chances of winning road maintenance contracts across Cape York, train and employ young local men and women, and better prepare the community for cyclone season.
- $300,000 for the Cooktown Medical Centre to carry out extensions, upgrade medical facilities, employ a registrar from JCU, and provide space for health and allied services.
- A total of almost $150,000 for a variety of FNQ community projects under the Stronger Communities program. Successful recipients include the Cairns RSL Sub-Branch, and the Cairns and Marlin Coast Mens Sheds.
Of course, there have also been many other non-monetary achievements that have led to positive outcomes for our region including;
- Representing Australia at the Generally Assembly of United Nations in New York. Whilst there I was able to showcase James Cook University’s Institute of Tropical Medicine and the work being done by its talented researchers on developing a tuberculosis vaccine. I also attended an international TB conference in Mexico and a worked on TB advocacy in Washington.
- My strong support for same sex marriage in Australia, which led to a postal survey being held on the issue.
- My support for the establishment of the Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef.
- My work as Chair of the Northern Australia Committee in driving positive outcomes for Northern Australia.
- The myriad of favourable outcomes for constituents who have sought support from my office throughout the year.
There is still much I am focussed on achieving for you in 2018. I look forward to working with you on a range of local projects and together strengthening our region for an even brighter future.
At this point, I would like to pay my respects to five outstanding local individuals who passed away in 2017 – Dr Evelyn Scott, AO, Mr Ronald Keith Ireland, OAM, Bishop Saibo Mabo, Father Dave Passi and Mr Charles Woodward.
In different ways these amazing human beings made an enormous contribution to Far North Queensland for the betterment of all who live here.
My thoughts to go out to the families of these fine Far North Queenslanders, and others who have lost loved ones throughout the year.
Christmas can be a particularly hard time for some, so I encourage everybody to think of those at this time, show your support, and help spread a little goodwill to those who need it most.
I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas. May you stay safe, enjoy the holidays, cherish the time you have with family and friends, and be kind to each other.