We can’t afford to wait
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