It’s B-double the trouble
Redirecting Tablelands cane to Mossman is fraught. The major community concern is the belief that the road is not suitable for the increase in B-Double trucks between Mt Molloy to the bottom of the Rex Range. The single lane bridge at Rifle Creek is a treacherous crossing as it is. I and many other of our residents have followed B-Double trucks down the Rex Range and it is obvious with the combination of traffic lane widths, the road geometry where there are very sharp bends we have observed the B-Double prime movers need to cross the double lines (thereby encroaching into the path of the oncoming traffic) in order to allow the rear traffic axle wheels to travel in the correct traffic lane. The relevant government agencies are advising our residents that ‘‘correctly loaded and operated B-Doubles can negotiate the Rex Range safely’’...it is therefore obvious with the limited number of vehicles using the road this crushing season many are not being correctly operated all the time. The relevant government agencies do not appear to be expressing any concerns about increasing the existing traffic count from 930 vehicles per day (this figure includes 107 heavy vehicles day, a 1.1 per cent growth over the past 10 years). Mackay Sugar propose to increase the existing 107 heavy vehicle count to 347 heavy vehicle movements per day (one B-Double every six minutes) plus the four school bus runs etc. The proposal is that the B-Doubles operate next crushing season, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 30 weeks. Unfortunately with an increase in heavy vehicles mixed up with the many caravans and recreational vehicles using the Rex Range at the same time we must expect increased road accidents. I am informed by the local community there has been at least two truck (50 tonne loaded) rollovers each year with the current limited B-Double movements. This year has been a record year for recreation vehicles using the Mt Molloy Rd. Having spoken to some of these tourists the word is that they will not be travelling along the Rex Range next year if the additional B-Doubles are operating; rather than travel the round trip they will access and leave the coast via the Kuranda Range, creating more traffic congestion, road kills etc for the people of Kuranda. I have advised the chairman of Mackay Sugar of my concerns and to his credit he responded quickly advising that the company was forming a Community Working Group (CWG) that the members would be selected by Mackay sugar from the applications for positions available within the Group. Mackay Sugar has appointed an independent firm that specialises in stakeholder engagement. The objective of the CWG is to assist in planning for the transportation of Tablelands cane to Mossman in a manner that reduces an impact on the Mt Molloy and Julatten communities. There is no acceptable means of reducing the impact to all the affected communities if the cane is to be hauled to Mossman. There is to be six bimonthly meetings with the final meeting in August 2014. Obviously if all goes to plan for Mackay Sugar much of the additional 700,000 tonnes of sugar from the Tableland will be in the process of being delivered to Mossman by August 2014. By then of course the horse will have already well and truly bolted, and nothing will eventuate until these major problems compound into a need for government intervention. Our community cannot understand how the canegrowers on the Tablelands can justify bypassing the state-of-the- art Tablelands Sugar Mill at the expense and the inconvenience of the Mount Molloy and Julatten (and possibly Kuranda) communities. There will be much more damage to the roads with the unnecessary very long haulage of the 700,000 tonnes of cane. The taxpayers’ cost of road repairs/ improvements compared with any financial savings by Mackay Sugar should be assessed and made public I understand the Mossman Mill requiring additional cane to keep it viable and provide employment opportunities, but this should not be at the expense of our community. Surely Mackay Sugar had other plans to increase the productivity of the Mossman Mill when they purchased it. My request to the chairman of Mackay Sugar was for a road safety audit be carried out between Mt Molloy and the Rex Range as a matter of urgency. I was also advised by his office that the CWG will work through this issue if it is requested by the group. The CWG objective is that a compromise needs to be reached? There is no way our community can be compromised in any manner by the onslaught of a convoy of B-Doubles destroying our unique lifestyle. As I advised the chairman of the Mackay Sugar, the destruction of our community lifestyle is certainly not in accordance with their espoused corporate values.