Townsville Enterprise looks forward to the Queensland Treasurer, The Hon. Jackie Trad MP, handing down the State Budget on Tuesday and welcoming announcements that will continue driving our region’s economic recovery.
Over the past few years, North Queensland has not only been recovering from some of the most challenging economic conditions, a crippling drought to the west, and water security issues in Townsville, but has the added pressures of recovering from an unprecedented flooding event that devastated over 3,000 homes and local businesses.
Our 2019 Townsville North Queensland State Government Budget Submission encourages the Government to not only focus on the immediate recovery and the drag caused by floods and drought, but to deal with the pre-existing structural issues that undermine future resilience and the investment necessary to resolve these issues. This includes further investment into the key infrastructure and industries that are the lifeblood of regional Queensland, such as flood proofing and upgrading the Mount Isa to Townsville Rail Line and securing the necessary support and policy settings for the mining and resources industry to continue to grow in regional Queensland.
Our State Budget Submission was lodged prior to the Federal Election. As a result projects in this document, such as Drive It and the Cowboys Community and Sports Excellence Centre have since received funding commitments, but remain a priority for the State as they are still not fully funded.
Our regions are a key focus in this Budget Submission. Long term water security and agricultural development, through projects like Hells Gates Dam, are also key priorities not just for Townsville, but for all our supporting regions including the Burdekin, Hinchinbrook, Charters Towers and Palm Island. The Burdekin Shire Council is looking at securing additional industrial land development, Hinchinbrook Shire Council is seeking funding to increase accessibility at Dungeness, and through the construction of Big Rocks Weir, the Charters Towers Regional Council will provide water security and open up agriculture for the North. These are not significant costs to the Government but will catalyse our regions to grow jobs and opportunities.
Securing funding towards new tourism infrastructure, such as Drive It and the Museum of Underwater Art, is also important to not lose sight of; not only to continue attracting visitors from across the nation and the world, but to improve liveability for North Queensland residents and incentivise relocating to the regions.
It’s important to note that since submitting our key project and policy recommendations for the region to Treasury, there has been an additional major area of concern requiring the attention of our State Government. The Palm Island water situation is a critical issue for that community at the moment and is in urgent need of vital upgrades. A clean and safe water supply is a basic necessity of life and we would welcome further commitments from government to permanently rectify that issue.
Now more than ever we need government to continue investing in the north and supporting the industries our community depends on. This includes the Galilee Basin and the jobs and wealth it will provide to not just North Queensland, but across the whole state, helping to fund our schools, hospitals and roads. Closer to home, and also listed in our budget document is the lithium ion battery plant at Woodstock. The $2.1 billion project recently received $3.1 million in Queensland Government funding for a feasibility study and we would welcome further support to stages two and three to establish the plant in the region. The battery plant is strongly championed by Townsville City Council and would be the largest outside of the United States and China; creating an estimated 7,000 jobs across manufacturing, supportive businesses and downstream original equipment manufacturing for our region.
Further projects earmarked for North Queensland and declared as ‘Coordinated Projects’ by Queensland’s Coordinator- General, including the CopperString 2.0 Project and the North Queensland Country Club and Equestrian Centre (Toolakea), are also an important part of a pipeline of future investment the region will look to pursue over the coming years. Expert financial and economic modelling undertaken for the CopperString 2.0 project demonstrates the importance of integrating the North West Minerals Province into the east-coast grid by providing an approximately $45 million per year boost to the feasibility of the State Government’s Powering North Queensland Plan and reducing electricity prices for customers across Northern Queensland.
It's fair to say that the region has been dealt some significant blows in recent times, with record unemployment in 2012 sitting at 14%. However, at the end of 2018 we started noticing a shift in sentiment following a number of positive announcements that not only begun to improve business confidence but importantly drove down unemployment in our region to 8%. This is still an uncomfortably high number which is why we will continue taking up the fight to secure job creating projects for North Queensland and hope to see even further progress over the next 12 months following this budget announcement.