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Mayor Takes Wish List To Canberra

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Nullinga Dam would underpin additional agricultural production worth $200 million a year to Far North Queensland, according to data that will be presented to the nation’s top politicians this week.

The dam, which is considered vital to long-term water security for the Cairns region and the continued growth of Far North Queensland’s agriculture sector, tops a list of regional priorities Mayor Bob Manning is taking to Canberra on Tuesday.

Cr Manning is ramping up the case for increased investment in Cairns in the lead-up to this year’s federal election.

A document outlining 11 key priorities for the Cairns region has been produced in time for Cr Manning’s arrival in Canberra tomorrow as part of an FNQROC mayoral delegation.

“As Cairns’ population grows, an additional water supply will be essential. If we continue on the current growth trajectory, we’ll have a regional population of 570,000 by 2050.

“More broadly, Nullinga Dam is vital to the further growth of Far North Queensland’s agricultural industry, which already leads the way in Northern Australia and is placed to become one of the country’s most important food bowls.

“This in turn would lead to maximising our export and distribution industries and support countless jobs across the region.”

The Cairns federal election priorities are based on the outcomes of the Cairns 2050 Shared Vision – a project that brought together key city stakeholders to map out a joint action plan for economic growth and enhanced liveability.

“The Shared Vision has the support of our business sector and community leaders and has given us a platform to lobby government on behalf of the Cairns region.”

Among the commitments sought both sides of federal parliament is a $13.3 million contribution towards the estimated $39.8 million capital cost of a new Gallery Precinct; extension of the National Land Transport Network to Smithfield; and funding commitments to deliver capacity improvements on this key road corridor.

In region-based projects, commitments are being sought for expansion of HMAS Cairns and its facilities; a detailed review of the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics Rainforest management structures; resources and funding toward renewable energy projects; and an enhanced relationship with Papua New Guinea, with a view to establishing a joint bid between Cairns and Papua New Guinea for a team to enter the National Rugby League.

“I’ll be taking the opportunity this week to bring attention to some of these key projects, but that certainly won’t be the end of those discussions,” Cr Manning said.

“The aim is to engage both sides of parliament on these matters and continue meet and discuss the potential outcomes and benefits in the coming months.

“In some cases, we’re already engaged in ongoing discussions with key Ministers and Shadow Ministers and some progress has been achieved. But, with an election looming, it’s time to take that discussion to the next level.

“Cairns is vital to the Queensland and national economies and we are certainly due for some big investment from the top level of government.”

Across Far North Queensland, the future of the Kennedy Highway (Kuranda Range Road) will be of particular importance to the delegation, which is seeking a commitment of $800 million towards a total $1 billion to fund safety and reliability improvements.

“The Kennedy Highway is travelled by nearly 9000 vehicles a day, including more than 1000 commercial and heavy vehicles,” Cook Shire Mayor and Far North Queensland Region of Councils (FNQROC) Deputy Chairman Peter Scott said.

“It’s an incredibly important transport link from both an economic and a social perspective,” he said.

“Yet we have, on average, 1.3 unplanned closures of the road every week and one person injured every four days while travelling on the Kuranda Range.

“These incidents are costing the broader community more than $870,000 a week in health services and property damage, on top of lost productivity.

“We need all levels of government to work together toward a solution.”

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said “This is our chance to put our joint priorities to both sides of Government prior to the election period,” Cr Manning said.

“It’s important that, as leaders of our respective local government areas, we show unity on behalf the residents of Far North Queensland.

“This delegation provides an opportunity for all Far North Queensland councils to work together for the good of the broader region. A shared approached holds greater weight and demonstrates the level of cooperation and coordination we have up here.”

Key meetings include with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Northern Australia Minister Matthew Canavan, Shadow Minister for Northern Australia, Jason Clare, Defence Shadow Minister Richard Marles and Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen.

In total, more than 20 meetings with Ministers, Shadow Ministers, Senators and senior advisors are scheduled across three days.

Commitments are being sought on 11 topics critical to the Far North, including environmental management, tourism infrastructure, digital connectivity, water and transport.

Other commitments being sought include expansion of HMAS Cairns, a review of existing management of the Great Barrier Reef, remote housing projects for Indigenous communities, and relationship-building with Papua New Guinea that would enable the establishment of a joint NRL venture with Cairns.