We can’t af­ford to wait

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

CON­TAINER ship­ping line ANL’s de­ci­sion to open a suite of new Asian ser­vices out of Townsville pro­vides a timely re­minder of how crit­i­cal our port is to the re­gion’s fi­nan­cial for­tunes.

ANL, which only re­turned to Port of Townsville in April with a ser­vice to PNG, has dou­bled down on its com­mit­ment with new di­rect ser­vices to Malaysia, In­done­sia and Sin­ga­pore.

As a re­sult, a new faster gate­way to Asia has swept open for the re­gion’s ex­porters.

Farm­ers, fish­er­men, hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ists and man­u­fac­tur­ers now have a vi­able al­ter­na­tive to truck­ing their pro­duce down the Bruce High­way to the Port of Bris­bane.

It’s a vote of con­fi­dence in Townsville by ANL, which would only have com­mit­ted to this new ser­vice with hard ev­i­dence that the de­mand was there.

But the cloud at­tached to this sil­ver lin­ing is the un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing the port’s cru­cial chan­nel widen­ing plans.

It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say the widen­ing project is piv­otal to Townsville’s eco­nomic fu­ture.

From our in­cep­tion we have been a port town.

Our pros­per­ity was built on be­ing the gate­way from our vast hin­ter­land to the rest of Aus­tralia and the world.

The count­less tonnes of agri­cul­tural, min­ing and pro­cessed goods trav­el­ling both ways franked Townsville as the cap­i­tal of the North.

But that sta­tus will be in very real jeop­ardy if our port fails to keep pace with global ship­ping trends. Put sim­ply, the ships are get­ting big­ger. If we don’t build tran­sit lanes big enough to ac­com­mo­date them, they will by­pass us and go di­rectly to Bris­bane.

And that won’t merely dam­age our econ­omy.

If the ships don’t come here, the con­tain­ers will have to travel here by truck up the Bruce, re­sult­ing in a dra­matic in­crease in car­bon emis­sions.

So the en­vi­ron­ment will also be worse off.

It is im­per­a­tive the State and Fed­eral gov­ern­ments recog­nise this in their de­lib­er­a­tions over the project. On that note, here’s a ques­tion for the green ac­tivists op­posed to this ex­pan­sion. Should this widen­ing not oc­cur, will our en­vi­ron­ment be bet­ter off?

What do you think would re­sult in more car­bon emis­sions and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, an ex­pan­sion of the port or a dra­matic in­crease in con­tain­ers trav­el­ling by truck on the Bruce? Open let­ter to the Min­is­ter for Cities and Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion The Hon­ourable An­gus Tay­lor Dear Sir, From pre­vi­ous cor­re­spon­dence you would know that the Wa­ter For Townsville Ac­tion Group has en­gaged in a sig­nif­i­cant amount of re­search to doc­u­ment tech­ni­cal, ge­o­graph­i­cal, his­tor­i­cal, so­cial, health/ well­be­ing, en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic data re­lated to Townsville’s per­sis­tent wa­ter in­se­cu­rity.

Our lead tech mem­ber was in­vited by the Mayor to par­tic­i­pate in one of the City Deal fo­cus groups to ad­vo­cate our WFTAG agenda. Col­lated data were sub­mit­ted to the Wa­ter Task­force in April 2017, with a range of in­fra­struc­ture pref­er­ences and six firm rec­om­men­da­tions. The com­pre­hen­sive 450- page re­port is avail­able on our FB site in “Files”.

City Deal Wa­ter Task­force chair­man Brad Webb’s in­terim re­port rec­om­men­da­tion is for a sec­ond pipe­line to be fast- tracked.

We are de­lighted with the re­cent State Gov­ern­ment Bud­get al­lo­ca­tion as well as the Op­po­si­tion’s com­mit­ment to match their $ 225 mil­lion for wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture. We do not agree with state and coun­cil me­dia com­ments claim­ing this fund­ing is ad­e­quate for “full long- term wa­ter se­cu­rity”. How can this as­ser­tion be made when the task­force rec­om­mends a two- stage process with stage 1, alone, re­quir­ing that $ 225 mil­lion?

If in­stalled to­gether as one larger project, at to­day’s cost­ings, this would save many mil­lions in the long run. The re­port says stage 2 could be com­pleted within the next 3- 15 years. There is no re­port def­i­ni­tion for what ac­tu­ally con­sti­tutes “wa­ter se­cu­rity”.

It does how­ever ac­knowl­edge that the Bur­dekin sup­ply will be­come Townsville’s pri­mary sup­ply. Tur­bid­ity of Bur­dekin wa­ter, in par­tic­u­lar, is not ad­dressed in any de­tail. We will dis­cuss these and other mat­ters in a fol­low- up meet­ing with the Mayor in Au­gust.

Given that the task­force- rec- om­mended op­tion will need mod­i­fi­ca­tions, we be­lieve the WFTAG pro­posal for a pipe­line, pos­si­ble routes and a crit­i­cal new wa­ter treat­ment plant, re­quires fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion.

Townsville has this one op­por­tu­nity to in­stall the best stan­dard of wa­ter se­cu­rity for many gen­er­a­tions. Our ma­jor con­cern is that stage 2 of Mr Webb’s rec­om­mended in­fra­struc­ture might not be funded at all. Whether the coun­cil agrees to use any new in­fra­struc­ture to negate ever go­ing to level 3 re­stric­tions is also an un­known.

If these uncer­tain­ties even­tu­ate, Townsville will, in no time, face sim­i­lar wa­ter sup­ply prob­lems and con­se­quen­tial re­stric­tions soon into the fu­ture.

Min­is­ter, your gov­ern­ment has cho­sen to adopt City Deal to en­sure an in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal ap­proach to pro­vid­ing crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture. We ap­plaud that de­ci­sion. While you re­cently stated in a SKY in­ter­view “it is al­ready work­ing on the ground”, the mat­ter of pro­vid­ing am­ple fund­ing for the city’s top pri­or­ity – wa­ter se­cu­rity – will ei­ther con­firm or con­tra­dict your pub­lic claim. It will also de­pend on the time frame for com­ple­tion.

Clearly it is not ac­cept­able to wait un­til Septem­ber 2018 for the fi­nal de­ci­sion from the Prime Min­is­ter, be­fore work can com­mence on our now ur­gent new in­fra­struc­ture needs. The prece­dent exists for the fed­eral and state lead­ers to put aside ad­ver­sar­ial tac­tics. That’s how the first stage of the Bur­dekin Dam was built in the mid- 1980s.

Ev­ery other project in our City Deal re­quires wa­ter se­cu­rity first, and af­ter such an un­fair de­lay the “best” is what our de­pressed city de­serves. Brownsville has borne the enor­mous fi­nan­cial, so­cial, en­vi­ron­men­tal, and psy­cho­log­i­cal con­se­quences that ac­com­pany long- term wa­ter in­se­cu­rity. The prob­lem is not just scarcity of rain, but lack of po­lit­i­cal ac­tion.

WFTAG’s sole ac­tivist fo­cus now is to en­cour­age the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to hon­our their Smart City pol­icy to create greener, more live­able cities. The in­tent re­quires fund­ing to match the state, not mere sig­na­tory sta­tus. As con­vener of City Deal’s first ever Face­book Com­mu­nity Part­ner­ship, I would very much ap­pre­ci­ate a pub­lic re­sponse and an op­por­tu­nity via FaceTime to dis­cuss these mat­ters.

DR LINDA ASH­TON

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