Budget measures welcomed but critical enablers for NQ still miss out
The 2022/2023 State Budget has delivered a mixed bag to North Queensland, with some welcome investments into traditional Government service areas like health and education, but once again we are seeing limited progress on key enabling infrastructure in critical areas like water security and power transmission upgrades for the region.
Townsville Enterprise CEO Claudia Brumme-Smith said that the funding still seemed to represent a view of North Queensland as a net consumer of the state’s resources, rather than the globally recognised emerging green energy and green industry hub it actually is.
"The State budget has delivered some significant funding to our region, however we are still looking to see both State and Federal Governments recognise the potential and opportunities that our region presents.
“The way to capitalise on this potential is by funding and facilitating the projects that will create new industries, jobs and economic prosperity into the future. We need our governments to be as excited as our project proponents and trading partners are in the future of our region.
“For example, upgrades to transmission lines between North and Far North Queensland are obviously welcomed, but they don't go close to unlocking the world class renewable energy resources we have in our region, which in turn unlock pipelines worth billions of dollars in the green energy and green industry space.
“We need to see a greater return to regional Queensland, to recognise the critical role we played in Queensland's economic COVID resilience, and to give us the tools we need to grow and prosper.
“It is disappointing to see our mining industry slugged with higher taxes via an increase in royalties. We are going to work industry and government to ensure that these revenue windfalls are coming back to the regions that generate this wealth.
“We can’t see the old model continue to where the results of the toil of regional Queenslanders is syphoned off to the benefit of those in the South East Corner.
“We will continue to work with our membership base and partners to represent our region with a united voice to the State Government, and be a collaborative and constructive partner as we continue our work to unlock North Queensland's potential and secure our future."
The budget wins for our region include:
- The $530m investment toward 143 additional beds at Townsville University Hospital is an important piece of funding for the region ahead of the regional growth forecast for the next decade. We need to ensure that we have first class care and facilities with enough capacity to maintain liveability of our region and ensure we are an attractive option for people looking to move here.
- $49.7m toward affordable and social housing in the region. It is critical we have roofs over the heads of the workforce that will drive our development as a regional green energy and green industry hub. This has fast emerged as a key issue for our region, and we have been advocating strongly for Government assistance in this space.
- $26m toward Lansdown Eco-Industrial Park trunk infrastructure including works to connect to the Haughton Pipeline and improve road and rail access to the Park. Private proponents are already signing offtake agreements with trading partners and are rapidly advancing their projects so this great news for them, and the region.
- Tourism funding responding to the Action Plan for Tourism Recovery, and the investment into Queensland Music Trails which will bring more world class live music events to Townsville.
Missed opportunities include:
- RegenAqua is one of the single best investments any government could make into the long-term health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef. It is relatively low cost, innovative, locally developed, and along with significantly reducing nitrate and phosphate loads being released into coastal waters, delivers a powerful agricultural by-product that further reduces the needs for irrigation and nitrate fertiliser. $32m would see every Local Government Area in our region fitted with the technology and see immediate improvements to urban water runoff quality.
- Copper String is shovel ready, and the key to a project pipeline worth tens of billions of dollars. It improves the viability of mining projects in the North West, introduces more valuable green energy certificates to the national energy market, and opens up Townsville's hydrogen and green industry potential. It should have been started years ago, but the next best time would be right now.
- Support for water security and storage projects like Hells Gates Dam and the Stone River Weir project in Hinchinbrook Shire. Water is a critical element to the success of our region, and North Queensland does not yet have the water storage capacity required to meet the growing needs of industry, agriculture, and population. At the end of the day water security is a real issue and the longer we avoid addressing it, the harder it will be to solve.