A meeting of the Mount Isa Townsville Economic Zone (MITEZ) membership held at Mount Isa on Friday called for State and Federal government unity on vital investment decisions for Mount Isa to Townsville supply-chain infrastructure.
Responding to the current Federal State port rail infrastructure funding impasse, MITEZ President David Glasson said that MITEZ was sending a clear message to the State and Federal Governments to get together and sort out the funding arrangements.
Mr. Glasson said the region’s economic potential was being stymied by a lack of coordinated infrastructure planning and investment. There is no better example than the current impasse for the funding of the Townsville Eastern Access Rail Corridor (TEARC) and the Port Channel Widening project.
The reality is that after decades of under-investment, both are now high priorities. The Mount Isa to Townsville region contributes more than $20 billion annually to the national accounts, and with more than $10 billion in trade passing through it annually, the Port of Townsville supply chain is a freight corridor of national importance.
Mr Glasson added that vital strategic upgrades such as the TEARC and the channel widening projects were critical enablers of private sector investment in one of the world’s richest minerals and agricultural precincts. Industry needs a globally, competitive supply chain if it is to make the most of the opportunities flowing from high economic growth in the Indo-pacific region.
The rich mineral resources of the Mount Isa and Cloncurry Region is acknowledged as being of global significance and the supply corridor servicing it, is inarguably the lifeblood of our region. We need to provide efficient access to and from the port.
Townsville City Council’s MITEZ representative, Cr Margie Ryder stated that in addition to supply-chain efficiency gains, the TEARC would alleviate traffic congestion and improve urban amenity for the City of Townsville. Currently rail access goes through our city, causing traffic delays and noise issues. Providing access through the State Development area will remove freight trains from the centre of our city.
Mr. Glasson stated that the Federal Government needed to contribute the necessary $75 million to the Channel widening project in the coming budget and that the State Government to prioritise the planning and corridor acquisition needed to facilitate the timely development of TEARC.
A number of industry members attending the meeting agreed for them to remain competitive commodity producers in the world market, an underlying issue with the supply chain infrastructure is the access charges.
Mr Glasson said Government needed to re-evaluate its formula for their access charges for infrastructure to be an ‘enabler of economic development’ rather than a ‘çash-cow’ for Treasury.
“This would see new mines open up in the North West that would in turn create more investment, jobs, payroll taxes and mineral royalties for the State. Also, there would be fewer trucks on the roads as freight returned to the rail.”