Queensland’s failure to develop and fund a comprehensive and strategic road program – instead focusing on emergency fixes and urban roads that attract public attention – is costing the Queensland economy billions of dollars a year.
AgForce’s Transport Committee Chair Caroline Harris said the fact that up to half of a primary producer’s expenses are on transport indicated the scale of the problem.
“The truth is that Government investment in road infrastructure hasn’t kept pace with development in regional communities, rural industries, or farm machinery and technology – astonishing, considering that nearly half of the State’s economy is generated outside greater Brisbane,” Mrs Harris said.
“Queensland is one of the country’s most productive States but also its second largest and most regionalised.
“Agriculture – as one of the declared essential services – is prepared to do the heavy lifting when it comes to the post-COVID economic recovery, but we need infrastructure that enables us to do so.
“Providing a road system that meets the complex and sometimes competing needs of urban and regional cities, rural communities and our many industries including agriculture is always going to be a challenge – but one that needs to be taken on.
“The government needs to have a long-term strategy to ensure investment balances those needs and supports opportunities in regional, not just metropolitan, Queensland.
“For example, the Department of Transport and Main Roads identified 120 sub-standard bridges across regional Queensland, of which 27 were possibly unsafe and being considered for speed and/or weight restrictions – at a time when industry is seeking greater access not less.”
Mrs Harris said AgForce hoped a truly innovative and future-focused Government would consider its proposal for an inland “alternative” to the Bruce Highway, for which most infrastructure required already existed.
“The CSIRO estimates that the Bruce Highway being closed at any point – a frequent occurrence for a coastal road in a tropical State – costs the economy around $10 million a day,” she said.
“Clearly upgrading and adding to existing infrastructure to create an inland route would be a smart investment.”
Mrs Harris said a more thoughtful and holistic approach was required for investment of public funds.
“For example, it’s completely nonsensical to spend millions upgrading a regional road to enable more efficient transport when sub-standard tunnels and bridges, poor port access, or traffic restrictions turn them into very expensive truck parks,” she said.