Advancing plans for potential road freight network upgrades and speeding up the relocation of skilled workers will be among key topics discussed at the Darling Downs and South West Queensland (DDSWQ) Council of Mayors’ meeting in Cunnamulla on Friday (March 25).

DDSWQ Council of Mayors chair and Toowoomba Region Mayor Cr Paul Antonio said the meeting would receive an update on a CSIRO freight analysis proposal which is designed to offer councils data that could inform funding applications for road infrastructure upgrades.

“This evidence-based analysis approach is likely to result in greater funding success for vital road infrastructure upgrades,” Mayor Antonio said.

“Every local authority is well versed in the competitive process for securing state and federal funding which is vital to supplement our investment in upgrading important road freight networks.

“Highlighting the most important roads to consider for funding, based on freight data, will ensure local authorities and the state government avoid duplication and work collaboratively to plan upgrades for key freight routes.

“The Council of Mayors remain keen proponents for capacity upgrades to the Western and West Moreton rail lines that feed into the planned Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail route.

“We will receive an update from Ernst & Young on future freight demand and the feasibility of the rail line upgrades that promise to unlock more efficient freight movements and market access.”

Mayor Antonio said moves to establish a Designated Area Migration Agreement to streamline visa applications for skilled migrants would be examined.

“There are various skill gaps across the local authorities, and this process, which mirrors a similar scheme that is operating successfully at Cairns, could match workers to the areas in greatest need,” he said.

The meeting will review progress on the Darling Downs and South West Queensland Resilience Plans that are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Mayor Antonio said items in the Plans could be considered for Betterment funding, that was designed to rebuild or upgrade infrastructure to a more resilient standard to withstand the effects of inevitable future natural disasters.

Other topics for discussion include ideas to address housing shortages across the local authorities, plus presentations covering future water supply options, improving rural telecommunication coverage, plus food and fibre updates.

Presentations from Queensland Government departments, AgForce, the Queensland Farmers’ Federation, Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise, the Australian Rail Track Corporation, NBN Co, the Murray Darling Association, the University of Southern Queensland, Southern Queensland Country Tourism, the Local Government Association of Queensland and other invitees are scheduled on the program.

The Council of Mayors (DDSWQ) represents the communities of the Bulloo, Quilpie, Paroo, Murweh, Maranoa, Balonne, Western Downs, Goondiwindi, Southern Downs and Toowoomba regions and shires, covering an area the size of Sweden.

The group represents one quarter of Queensland’s land area and carries around 25% of its cattle stock and produces 75% of its grain and pulse crops.