A critical Townsville rail connection, a Central Queensland airport terminal upgrade and a racing club rejuvenation are among the projects regional councils have put forward in a COVID-19 fightback plan.
The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) on Friday submitted its list of shovel-ready proposals to the State Government on behalf of its 77 member councils.
They are designed to start stimulating local economies within weeks as the State pulls through the COVID-19 crisis.
The proposals are part of a $608 million Battleplan for Queensland Local Communities that the LGAQ has put forward for funding support.
Rail link a priority for Townsville
The $210 million Townsville Eastern Access Rail Corridor (TEARC) is among the projects put forward by Townsville City Council for funding.
Construction of the 8.3km rail freight connection from the North Coast rail line into the Port of Townsville would spport more than 1900 direct and 4700 indirect jobs.
Construction of the North Australia Concert Hall and Arts Precinct at a cost of $80 million is another big-ticket item being advocated by Townsville City Council.
“Modelling indicates that Townsville’s economy will lose around 5 per cent, or more than half a billion dollars, in total value-added because of the coronavirus pandemic,” Mayor Jenny Hill said.
“It also indicates that our city is facing a 7 per cent reduction of its workforce, with unemployment likely to peak at around 14 per cent in the second half of this year.
“Pulling together shovel-ready infrastructure and environmental projects to be considered as part of state and federal government’s budget process is an important step forward in our recovery.”
Airport centrepiece of Rocky rollcall
Rockhampton Region Mayor Margret Strelow said the council had 20 shovel-ready projects worth $35 million ready to start in the next three months if funding could be secured.
“The centrepiece of our ask is the Rockhampton Airport Terminal Upgrade which is worth $20 million alone of what we’re asking,” Cr Strelow said.
“This is for the staged delivery of an overarching Master Plan which would build new security screens (required by law), upgrades to infrastructure and reconfiguring the terminal to improve amenities.
“Our airport has been hit hard by the pandemic but it is vital we keep links to our region open for visitors to experience and workers to do business.”
Tourism offerings in Mackay’s sights
Mackay Regional Council has identified more than $18 million in critical infrastructure projects that could be carried out within the next year, ranging from shared pathways and footpaths to northern entry Ring Road landscaping.
Mayor Greg Williamson said stages of other major projects, ranging from the $7 million Pioneer Valley Mountain Bike facility to a $15 million Northern Beaches Community Hub, could also be delivered in the next 12 to 24 months.
“Some of these major projects would ensure new tourism offerings for our region,’’ he said. “These include the mountain biking track, a $15 million Mackay Waterfront Priority Development Area project and a new $2.5 tourism and community precinct in Mirani.”
New arts precinct key in Cairns
Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said that council had multiple shovel-ready projects including the city’s planned Cairns Gallery Precinct, which – if funded – would ensure the area had a new tourism offering to entice visitors to the region once restrictions were lifted.
“Our plans for the Cairns Gallery Precinct will transform our city centre into a world-class arts precinct,” he said.
“The project will diversify our economy and make it more resilient.”
Gladstone list ‘covers all sectors’
Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett said Gladstone Regional Council had multiple shovel-ready projects in the pipeline, including upgrades to Gladstone Tondoon Botanic Gardens, Gladstone Aquatic Centre rejuvenation, waste and water infrastructure upgrades, bridge renewals, road safety improvements and much more.
“Our Local Government Area is large and diverse, covering a wide range of sectors including industry, tourism and agriculture, and our proposed list of works encompasses all of these sectors in locations right across our region,” he said.
“Our region has a highly-skilled workforce that is capable of undertaking a wide variety of projects over the coming months.”
‘Flemington of the North’ on agenda
A plan to make Charters Towers the ‘Flemington of the North’, a refurbished aquatic centre and a BMX track upgrade are among 23 projects jockeying for position on Charters Towers Regional Council’s battleplan submission.
Mayor Frank Beveridge said it was a great chance to get to work underway on projects like the Towers Jockey Club revitalisation and a new lease on life for the Kennedy Regiment Memorial Pool, which was leaking 75,000 litres of water each day.
“The revitalisation of the Club includes upgrades to the racecourse itself, main and ancillary buildings and stabling and stalling facilities and would make it a great, modern amenity for the wider community and for the racing industry, which is a big employer and draw here,” he said.
Battleplan could spark 14,000 jobs
Local Government Association of Queensland President Mayor Mark Jamieson said councils stood at the ready to help Queensland meet the challenges of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
The LGAQ says its battleplan, if funded, could create more than 14,000 jobs statewide.
Key initiatives include:
- Jobs Recovery Package: A $200 million statewide job creation program modelled on the successful Works for Queensland initiative to support more than 8,000 jobs and hundreds of local projects.
- Green Army: A 3,000-strong workforce focused on protecting and improving the environment across the state for the benefit of critical sectors such as agriculture and tourism.
- Local Government Apprenticeship and Traineeship Guarantee: Providing 800 new or displaced workers with a guaranteed pathway to gain critical experience and skills.
Cr Jamieson has welcomed Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s public commitment to working with the LGAQ and its member councils to identify shovel-ready projects across the state to aid the economic recovery.
He also reiterated his thanks to Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington for her support for the LGAQ’s $608 million Battleplan for Queensland Local Communities.