Wider rail network upgrades beyond the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project will help to unlock more economic benefits for producers and enterprises across South West Queensland, according to the Darling Downs and South West Queensland (DDSWQ) Council of Mayors.
Friday’s local government leaders’ meeting at Roma resolved to keep pressing for rail upgrades around the State’s south west at every opportunity.
Group chair, Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio, said he was heartened by the commitment to continue pushing the case to transfer more freight to the rail network.
“Given the focus on the current Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project, it makes sense to plan for extending the rail freight network to service the wider South West Queensland area,” Mayor Antonio said.
“The state and federal governments, along with other supporters, are pressing ahead with new rail freight hubs at Morven and Mitchell. In addition, a former branch line has been re-opened to allow direct rail access to Oakey Beef Exports, but we need to look at making rail transport easily accessible for more beef producers and other users.
“News of the signing of a new Trans Pacific Partnership, which initially will see Japan, Mexico and Canada move to lift tariffs on Australian beef, offers new opportunities for beef producers and an efficient, integrated transport network is vital to maintaining supply to all customers.
“The Charlton area west of Toowoomba is developing as an important transport and logistics hub and there are additional opportunities for western producers to link here for road, rail and air freight access to national and international markets.
“Toowoomba is a 14 hour flight to Asian markets which opens up new opportunities for fresh and frozen produce, among other items such as equipment.”
Mayor Antonio said he was heartened that the DDSWQ Council of Mayors had evolved into a forum to promote the interests and voices of people from the member councils including, Bulloo, Quilpie, Paroo, Murweh, Balonne, Maranoa, Goondiwindi, Western Downs, Southern Downs and Toowoomba.
“These local government areas, which comprise around a quarter of Queensland’s land mass and are home to around 25% of the state’s beef herd and 75% of the grain crops, are desperately short of infrastructure and this needs to be conveyed to higher levels of government,” Mayor Antonio said.
“As a member of the South East Queensland Council of Mayors, I’ve seen the advantages that can be derived from speaking with a wider and collective voice when dealing with state or federal governments and other peak bodies.
“Friday’s meeting sparked the interest of numerous groups, including an address from the Port of Brisbane’s chief operating officer Peter Keyte, who outlined he Port’s push to see the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project be extended from its current end point at Acacia Ridge to the port proper.
“Mr Keyte summed the meeting up as a ‘coalition of the willing’ with attendees keen to advocate for a port-to-port rail solution. (Melbourne to Brisbane).”
Mayor Antonio said other keynote speakers included representatives from the Queensland Treasury Corporation, Trade and Investment Queensland, the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, Regional Development Australia (Darling Downs and South West), the University of Southern Queensland and the Local Government Association of Queensland.
Friday’s meeting also discussed vegetation management legislation, funding opportunities under the federal government’s new Regional Growth Fund, plus topics covering impending changes to Royal Flying Doctor funding, telecommunication, water issues and electric vehicle charging stations.
The group’s next meeting is scheduled for Charleville in June.