Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (21:39): You would think the importance of the Bruce Highway to North Queenslanders could not be underestimated. It is vital for supplies coming in, for goods going out and for getting from point A to point B. In many cases it is a link between where people live and where they work. It is a link between businesses and their customers. But the importance of the Bruce Highway has been underestimated by the Bligh Labor government. The state government cannot point the finger at past federal governments, because Labor has been in power in Queensland for 20 of the past 22 years. After that 20 years they not only have failed to come up with a plan to fix the Bruce Highway but are only just starting to realise what it is that needs fixing. I would like to dwell on one particular problem area on the Bruce Highway, the Goorganga Plains. Three weeks ago, flights in and out of Whitsundays were cancelled, not because of any issue with the airline but because the Bruce Highway at the Goorganga Plains, between the airport and the world-class tourism destination of the Whitsundays, was impassable due to flooding. Flooding closes the highway at the Goorganga Plains on a regular basis and the highway can be closed for days. That poses a serious risk for businesses relying on tourists being able to come into the region, particularly when tourism is at such a slump right now. But it is not just tourism business that is at risk because of the flooding. Lives are also at risk. On an early January morning last year, Scott Boldiston was swept off the highway at the Goorganga Plains while he was travelling to work. When he realised he had hit the water, he wound down his ute window before the power cut out so he could climb out of it. He luckily climbed a nearby tree above the raging currents of the flood waters, where he waited until he could flag someone down for help. His partner, Bridget Middleton, and their three children were terrified that Scott could have died that night. Bridget is now spearheading a petition which she intends to provide to me so we can get some action on the Goorganga Plains. But why has it come to this? Why hasn't the Bligh Labor government not done anything about this problem? So unaware and so incompetent was the Bligh Labor government that only five years ago they did not even know what the Goorganga Plains were and they certainly did not know that it had flooded there. In the Queensland government's 2007 report Brisbane-Cairns corridor strategy, this is what it has to say about the Bruce Highway, which runs from Brisbane to Cairns: Reliability on the corridor is also affected at times of major flooding: … … … the Bruce Highway can be cut along major floodplains at the Mary, Fitzroy (Yeppen), Burdekin, Herbert, Tully and at other points between Townsville and Cairns, North Johnstone and Mulgrave Rivers. No mention of the Goorganga Plains there. Maybe it is not considered to be major flooding, so let us read on. It says in the report: Minor flooding occurs where the Bruce Highway crosses the Beerburrum Creek, Isis River, Six Mile and Eight Mile Creeks, Sandy Gully Creek, Yellow Gin Creek and Pound Creek. Still no mention. Five years ago, the Department of Transport and Main Roads did not know anything about flooding on the Bruce Highway at the Goorganga Plains, or so we are led to believe by the report. Maybe the team preparing the report could not get in to look at the highway because their flight was cancelled. More likely, they did not go and have a look. Apparently, they did not even bother to ask anyone who lived in the region either. Apparently, Queensland Labor's tourism minister, Jan Jarratt, in whose electorate this problem lies, did not think it was important enough to mention to the state government back then. But late last year, just a few months out from a state election, something changed. In December last year, the Bligh Labor government released its new Bruce Highway report, Bruce Highway upgrade strategy, which states: Flooding at Goorganga Creek floodplain generally closes highway for up to 50 hours on a regular basis Well, frabjous day—a revelation! So, now that they have discovered where the problem is and how much of a problem it actually is, what are they going to do? The answer is: nothing will be done right now. The upgrade strategy has the Goorganga Plains flooding problem listed as something to be addressed in a decade's time. Queensland Labor's main road minister, Craig Wallace, reckons that he has a clear vision for the Bruce Highway that includes upgrading bridges and approaches at Goorganga Plains, which he says have been identified as priorities in our plan. Well, a clear vision, a priority or a plan needs to have a dollar figure to be realised, and the reality is that the Goorganga Plains is not costed. The Department of Transport and Main Roads do not know what the cost of flood-proofing this section of the Bruce Highway will be, because the Bligh Labor government and Craig Wallace have not allocated the appropriate resources to the department to do the predesign planning work. It is not a clear vision; it is not a priority; it is not a plan. It is the bucket list, and the Goorganga Plains is at the bottom of the bucket. It will be 18 months before the predesign and planning work will be complete. The actual construction will take another 18 months to two years.
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