The chief executive officer of Regional Development Australia Sunshine Coast, Darrell Edwards, has hailed the recent combined government and business forum as an important step towards collaboration for a better public transport future.
Almost 60 of the Sunshine Coast’s most prominent representatives from the government, tourism, transport, property development, education and business sectors converged on the Innovation Centre for the second forum of its kind to discuss the question, what kind of region do we want the Sunshine Coast to be?
It was a question first posed by The Hornery Institute chief executive and managing director Kate Meyrick at the inaugural forum.
Sunshine Coast Business Council chair Sandy Zubrinich says while it seems like a straightforward question, the answer is far more challenging.
“This collaborative input is focused on aligning views across the various levels of government to ensure the Sunshine Coast region gets the modern infrastructure it needs to underpin a prosperous future, as opposed to just the infrastructure governments can ‘afford’,” Zubrinich says.
The national director of design at Urbis, James Tuma, is a visionary urban designer with qualifications in built environments and landscape architecture, and he presented two interactive sessions at the event, bringing decades of experience and insight to the table.
Among others to take to the stage was Regional Development Australia (RDA) Sunshine Coast CEO Darrell Edwards, who says there has not been enough collaboration, particularly when it comes to transport infrastructure, in the past.
“This is why forums like [this] are so important,” he says.
“The attendees were very congenial and collaborative. Everybody had a view on such an important topic and all discussions were respectful.”
The RDA conducted a survey of more than 760 people to gauge residents’ thoughts on transport priorities for the region.
Statistics indicate the Coast’s population will increase by more than 60 per cent to 514,000 by 2036 and that 80 per cent of the region’s workforce use private vehicles to get to and from work.
Residents said they would happily use public transport and take the train to Brisbane if it was more efficient, faster and more reliable.
Edwards says survey comments indicated a high level of frustration at traffic congestion and delays on the Bruce Highway, and urgency for the government to provide an upgrade as quickly as possible.
“The community survey shows that we are focused in the right direction. We need to be advocating for the Bruce Highway, North Coast rail and the Mooloolah River interchange at every opportunity,” he says.
“The mass transit solution for the coastal corridor is still subject to contention and needs to be fully explored by TMR [Department of Transport and Main Roads] to come up with the right solution.
“I am not sure that light rail takes innovation into consideration.
“I am still waiting for publicly available information that shows the feasibility and viability versus other options.”
Edwards says there is no telling how technological advances over the next decade will affect how people commute.
“We can’t also continue to build and widen roads. We need to develop alternate solutions for mass rapid transit between the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane,” he says.
“Studies are currently being concluded. This needs to be expedited so that Infrastructure Australia can support the outcome and it can be considered for funding through the $10 billion National Rail fund.
“I think residents have been waiting long enough for fast rail alternatives.”
Edwards says while he was pleased to see continued discussions, and action, on the Bruce Highway upgrade, the Mooloolah River interchange project has been left languishing.
“This infrastructure should have been delivered with the Sunshine Coast University Hospital but unfortunately it was uncoupled,” he says.
“Fast access to the hospital is critical to emergency services and the health and wellbeing of residents.
“CAMCOS [the proposed rail link from Beerwah to Maroochydore] seems to be forgotten.
“It could be part of the Eastern corridor mass transit solution. We await TMR planning to see if it will be resurrected.”
The RDA will be pursuing two more opportunities to move the forum discussion forward at the Public and Smart Transport taskforce and City Deal stakeholder group.
Detailed survey results are available at rdasunshinecoast.org.au.