Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson has marked the 2021-2022 State Budget as the point in time when one of the region’s worst bottlenecks received the attention it desperately needs.
The Queensland Government’s 2021-2022 Budget included $160 million to match the $160 million committed by the Federal Government in May to deliver the first stages of the Mooloolah River Interchange project.
“Having both the Federal and State governments committed to the first stages of the Mooloolah River Interchange project is something that our Council and our community are deeply grateful for, after many years of determined advocacy from myself and Council,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“This goes to show that when governments work together, great things can be achieved and the beneficiaries are our communities.
“Anyone who travels in peak hour along the Sunshine Motorway from the Kawana Way interchange to the crossing of the Mooloolah River will tell you the bedlam that takes place each day and that traffic grinds to a standstill.
“This project will help to make this heavily congested part of our road network more accessible, enable it to carry greater capacity as the region continues to grow and provide a safer and more efficient travel experience for users.
“On behalf of our council, I want to congratulate and thank both the State and Federal governments for coming to the table to see the first stages of this project delivered.”
Mayor Jamieson also noted that State debt is $9.6 billion lower than was predicted in December and that the State was forecast to return to surplus in 2024-2025.
“All levels of government had to do the hard yards during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and through the economic recovery period to keep the community safe and economies afloat, as a result of which operating deficits became a responsibility we all needed to shoulder,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“What is important however – particularly in the context of being able to continue to invest in productive infrastructure and pay down debt – is the ability to return to surplus as quickly as possible.
“That is the strategy that has been followed by our council and which I will outline to our community when I deliver Council’s budget next week – and it is good to see the State government prioritising the need to return to surplus within the four year forward estimates period.
“The stronger than anticipated economic growth forecasts are also important for our region, which over the last nine years has experienced economic growth rates around one per cent higher than State and national averages.
“This should mean that our region will continue to perform well on its four key economic goals relating to the growth of our economy, increasing the number of high-value employment opportunities, expanding our export of goods and services outside the region and most importantly, increasing average household incomes to at least meet the State average.”
Mayor Jamieson also noted a number of elements in the State budget that would benefit the Sunshine Coast, including:
The continued investment in upgrades to the Bruce Highway, which are funded under an 80%/20% partnership between the Federal and State governments;
The retention of the commitment of $20 million made in the last State Budget towards the Stage 1 expansion of the Sunshine Coast Stadium, subject to the amount being matched by the Federal government;
A new secondary school to be constructed at Palmview (forecast to open in 2023), continuation of funding for the new primary school at Caloundra South and substantial upgrades to 14 schools across the region, recognising the need to respond to the continuing growth in the Sunshine Coast population; and
Financial support to expand the experiences available at some of the region’s key visitor attractions, including Bellingham Maze, Aussie World, Australia Zoo and the Conondale National Park.
Mayor Jamieson also welcomed the $1.9 billion record commitment to the new Housing and Homelessness Action Plan and the $1 billion Housing Investment Fund, which he hopes will facilitate better access to social housing solutions and provide more response options for people experiencing homelessness.
“Homelessness continues to be a key challenge on the Sunshine Coast and with an undersupply of social housing and a heated private rental market, the need for government intervention in this space is critical,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“I look forward to discussing with the Housing Minister Leeanne Enoch, areas of critical need for our region.”
Some areas of concern are however, evident in the Budget and Mayor Jamieson has flagged these matters need ongoing attention.
“As President of the Local Government Association of Queensland, I have already flagged our very grave concern that there is no funding in the forward estimates to continue the advance waste levy payments to councils beyond the next financial year – which will shift the cost of the waste levy onto households from July 2022,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“I have called on the Palaszczuk Government not to renege on its promise that households would not have to pay more as a result of the introduction of the waste levy.
“Unfairly penalising households without helping foster the industries and technologies needed to divert more waste away from landfill is unacceptable.
“Much of the concern about the imposition of the waste levy in 2019 was muted due to the commitment to advance payments to councils, which meant the impost was not shifted directly to households – that will dissipate if the advance payments arrangements are not maintained.
“I am also disappointed at the absence of any firm commitment to the funding and finalisation of the south east Queensland City Deal, something the SEQ Mayors have been advocating for since 2014.
“Securing a City Deal removes the uncertainty associated with political cycles and makes clear the infrastructure and service commitments over a 15-20 year horizon that will support the region’s response to growth and protection of its liveability, so it is concerning that this has not been seen as a priority in the Budget.
“I am also concerned there is not more direct financial support to assist with the recovery of our region’s tourism industry, one of the industries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I made the point last year and I will do so again, the Sunshine Coast is only seeking its fair share as we continue to see the significant tourism marketing investment channelled into the Gold Coast and Tropical North Queensland.”