NOW is the time for Government to open up industry in the North by investing in critical infrastructure such as the Hann Highway, says Rob Katter.
The State Member for Mount Isa called on the Federal Government to lead the funding commitment to seal the rest of the Hann Highway. The call for a Commonwealth commitment comes after a positive meeting with State Treasurer Curtis Pitt in Hughenden on Friday.
Mr Katter was joined by key stakeholders from Flinders and Etheridge Shire Councils, Hughenden Chamber of Commerce, Hann Highway Action Group, Advance Cairns and NorthBEEF in reminding Mr Pitt of the importance of the Hann Highway.
The total cost to seal the two sections of road (80 kilometres on the Hann Highway between Lynd Junction and Hughenden and 20km on the Torrens Creek to Aramac Road) to complete the Hann Highway would cost $100 million.
“There was strong inclination from the Treasurer for the State Government to contribute to the Hann Highway once the Commonwealth has declared that they will make their contribution,” Mr Katter said.
“This is a project of national significance so it’s typical practice for the Federal Government to be the main funder. I’m highly confident the State Government will contribute but we need the Federal Government to stop stalling and formally offer the money and then we can get bitumen on the dirt. We need this now.”
Finishing the Hann Highway would provide an inland route linking Cairns to Melbourne, saving approximately 700km off the trip. The construction of the road would also generate much-needed employment opportunities to struggling towns out West, Mr Katter said.
“If the Federal Government can’t see the benefits of investing in the Hann Highway – especially given it is in the North where there is supposed to be a focus to develop – then there rightly will be serious concern about the how genuine they are to develop the North,” Mr Katter said.
“There are so many benefits to sealing the missing link to provide a continuous inland route from Cairns to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, avoiding the coastal Bruce Highway during floods.”
“Sealing the Hann Highway offers a safer alternative to the Bruce Highway, and reduces congestion and maintenance on that highway which is already prone to economy-stalling flood closures.”
The Hann Highway route would traverse high ground of the Great Dividing Range, ensuring it would be significantly flood resistant, compared with the coastal route which is regularly cut off during the wet season.
“Not only is it safer and would be more reliable, but it would also enable significant economic development and growth, not only in freight and agriculture through the more efficient movement of cattle, but irrigation, mining, tourism, along with a multitude of employment, lifestyle, and social benefits,” Mr Katter said.
“Last year, there was a CSIRO transport logistics study which showed freight could be trucked from Cairns to Melbourne via the Hann Highway $278/tonne cheaper and 8.55 hours quicker, on a 683km shorter route (compared with the Bruce Highway).”
“This should be a no-brainer for governments to invest in as there are so many vast benefits for multiple industries in the North. Sealing the Hann Highway would reduce travel distance and time, save fuel costs, minimise down on wear and tear and maintenance on roads and minimise stress and fatigue for both truck drivers and cattle.”
Mr Katter said the fruit and vegetable industries in the Far North, particularly bananas, would benefit from a fully-sealed Hann Highway, spurring growth in the multi-billion dollar industry.