The 2019 Federal Budget has delivered some welcome good news for North West Queensland, however local leaders point to significant gaps that still need to be addressed to deliver the fair regional deal our region deserves.
Nine Mayors from North West Queensland have welcomed Budget commitments that will have an impact on the region and commend the government for its support and approach to working with the locals following the unprecedented flooding events earlier this year.
This targeted regional approach following the floods is a positive way forward and one that produces better outcomes across our large and diverse region - setting up works programs, securing jobs and providing a light at the end of the tunnel for meeting long-ignored needs.
In contrast the Budget continues to have gaps in how councils and communities can access available funding.
Funding is still stored in silos that look well-stocked upon announcement but are soon wasted opportunities, with inefficient mad scrambles to get access to this “on again, off again” approach to funding – there is a better way.
The collective councils of North West Queensland (NWQROC) have developed a strategic Six-point Plan for a long-term regional deal that would see federal, state and local government working together to deliver agreed priorities.
We’ve done the hard yards and developed our strategic Plan for the future and continue to put this to government and opposition. It clearly outlines a logical and fair way forward for our region, identifying roads, power, water infrastructure, telecommunications and population policy as fundamental to our future.
While a regionally-based approach to addressing these priorities has been endorsed by the major parties, they are yet to commit to such an approach for Queensland’s North West.
The Budget identifies funding for six city and regional deals, most in southern states, however North West Queensland misses out again - if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us.
The Budget does offer some good news for our region with the previously announced funding for flood recovery for our industries, infrastructure and communities confirmed in the budget. This includes the $3.1 billion North Queensland Flood Recovery Package and the Natural Disaster Resilience Fund provides $130.5 million over five years to enable the rebuilding of damaged infrastructure to a better standard to minimise future damage.
As we’re all well aware in our part of the world, rebuilding the heart and soul of the people hit by natural disasters is as important as rebuilding our bridges and roads. The Mental Health Program of $5.5 million for communities hit by natural disasters is not only important funding for people affected, but also recognises the importance of providing this kind of support.
After bearing the brunt of mother nature’s worse this year we understand, a new $3.9 billion Emergency Response Fund to respond to future natural disasters beyond existing state and federal programs will no doubt be of benefit to many communities in the future to recover when they are hard hit.
We are pleased to see confirmed commitment to strategic roads in our region, a major priority which was outlined in NWQROC’s pre-Budget submission and is a key part in our Six-point Plan. This $824 million funding under the Roads of Strategic Importance Program will see upgrades to the Flinders and Hann Highways and the Savannah Way and other roads in North Queensland and deliver benefits to our communities and business.
New funding programs sought by NWQROC are most welcomed.
NWQROC’s pre-Budget submission and strategic Plan also highlighted the challenge faced by rural and remote communities obtaining affordable and equitable access to high speed broadband. We hope we are able to begin to address these challenges under the $220 million over five years allocated for improving regional telecommunications which includes $60 million for a Regional Connectivity Program.
There’s also positive news in the Supporting Reliable Energy Infrastructure Program of $75.5 million over seven years including the investigation into local microgrids – another initiative on the NWQROC’s Six-point Plan. Many of the region’s residents don’t have affordable and reliable energy sources and off-grid solutions need to be part of future energy developments.
Other long-standing local government funding programs essential to the day to day operations of our nine member councils are continued including, Financial Assistance Grants, Roads to Recovery, Building Better Regions, Bridges Renewal and Black Spots programs.
We now turn our attention to the election and call on all candidates for the Kennedy Electorate to stand up for the North West and commit their parties to announce their support for a regional deal for us.
LNP’s Frank Beveridge, a former Charter Towers Mayor; ALP’s Brett McGuire, raised in Julia Creek; and local member Bob Katter MP who acknowledges the North West as his heartland have all been asked for their support. We now call on them to publicly support the North West.
Download the NWQROC Six-point Plan at: https://www.nwqroc.com.au/fairregionaldeal/
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Contact: Greg Hoffman PSM - Executive Officer, NWQROC | 0418 756 005 | firstname.lastname@example.org