Advocacy Alert: Economic Impact of Mount Isa to Tennant Creek Rail Line

In September this year, Townsville Enterprise commissioned AEC Group to develop a report on the economic impact the proposed Darwin to Mount Isa Rail Link would have on Townsville North Queensland. Key findings in the report reveal that the North West Minerals Province (NWMP) currently supports approximately $426.7 million in output and $141.2 million in GRP in Townsville North Queensland, providing benefits to all sectors within the economy either directly or indirectly. 

The Northern Territory and Queensland Governments are currently undertaking a feasibility study of establishing a new rail line linking the NWMP to the Port of Darwin. The proposed Mount Isa to Tennant Creek Railway is a $2–$3 billion project aimed at expanding the Mount Isa to Townsville Railway to Tennant Creek and joining it to the existing Tarcoola to Darwin Railway in Northern Territory.

The NWMP, in the Mount Isa to Townsville Economic Zone (MITEZ), currently exports over $4 billion in mineral commodities product through the Port of Townsville. Economic projections for the MITEZ region’s economic activity suggests that the degree of economic impact of the NWMP for Townsville North Queensland has the potential to increase significantly to 2050 as a mining recovery takes place. This presents a significant opportunity for long term economic growth for the Townsville North Queensland economy. 

If the development of the Mount Isa to Tennant Creek rail link proceeds, the Townsville North Queensland economy is at risk of losing some or potentially all of the economic activity supported by the NWMP. The current rail link supports over 900 jobs and a new corridor into another state puts all of those jobs at risk, as well as halving the Port of Townsville’s trade. It simply does not make sense that Queensland stakeholders would be supportive of this process.

The Mount Isa to Townsville rail line is a nationally recognised Queensland State asset that is not operating to its full potential. The fact that mining companies are now seeking to send product by road, rather than by rail between Mount Isa and Townsville, is testament to the inefficiencies now experienced by the rail connection and failures in the existing regulatory and pricing models.

We need a long-term approach adopted to financially support the operating and funding model for this critical freight corridor to efficiently support mining, agriculture and manufacturing industries in our region.

The Mount Isa to Townsville Rail Connection is one of the key priorities outlined in Townsville Enterprise’s 2017/18 Townsville North Queensland State Government Election Priorities which can be viewed at the Townsville Enterprise website here.

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