Mr ENTSCH: While I welcome the government’s significant investment commitments to the Kuranda Range in the marine precinct in my electorate, I want to raise some serious concerns about the effectiveness of the funding. Let me start by addressing the concerns with the government’s commitment for $210 million for safety upgrades on the Kuranda Range. No-one can deny that safety is of the utmost importance, but the reality on the ground is that we need to be focusing on resolving the connectivity issues. Doing what they’re doing at the moment is like putting lipstick on a pig. The Kuranda Range is effectively already at and well beyond maximum capacity. It typically closes about 44 times a year, on average, for six hours each time. The Kuranda Range will always be a local and tourist access road from Cairns to the Tablelands but it has serious restrictions in relation to heavy transport both from the Barron River bridge capacity and the range itself. No number of safety upgrades can address these problems. The solution is an alternative route connecting Cairns to the Tablelands.
An alternative route will offer access for the B-doubles with over 50-tonne capacity and provide options for commuters who routinely find themselves stranded in the Kuranda Range. I implore the government to set aside $22 million from the committed $210 million to complete the engineering costings and the business case, which will show a viable alternative, of which there are already three possibilities that I’m aware. This will allow us to seriously consider a fully costed, practical alternative route and start planning for construction. This is fully supported by all the councils, the chambers of commerce, Advance Cairns and the majority of the local community.
Another issue is in regard to the Cairns Marine Precinct. The government has committed $110 million, matched by the state government, for a common user facility on land recently made available under the Ports North master plan. The CUF is something that I’ve been working towards for the last five years. However, there have been no formal costings or any engineering completed for the identified location that the government talks about, and the advice I have suggests that the cost will be greater than $600 million, compared to the $300 million set aside. While I support the CUF, it is several years down the track.
But there is an opportunity to complete the actual marine precinct, and this requires a further investment of $24 million. It is common knowledge among the relevant stakeholders, but somehow it seems to have eluded the government. You really can’t start the common user facility if the marine precinct isn’t completed and all the businesses within the precinct are in agreement. It is precisely why we committed to fund the final investment in the last election. I strongly urge the government to sit down with stakeholders and the users to go through details on the issue. Funding could easily be taken from the already committed funding. It will finalise the most important piece of the puzzle. It is abundantly clear to me that the government’s commitment on a common user facility will be hamstrung if the marine precinct doesn’t receive the required amount of investment that’s needed to complete the project.