Two planned Sunshine Coast projects have had their funding axed after the federal government revealed the outcome of its infrastructure spending review.
The funding cuts are being called a “devastating blow” that could endanger the safety of residents.
Infrastructure Minister CatherineKing has revealed the federal government will axe $160m for the Mooloolah River Interchange Upgrade and $7m for the Nicklin Way-Third Avenue Connection at Caloundra.
The announcement is drawing criticism from representatives from all three levels of government on the Sunshine Coast. LNP State Member for Maroochydore Fiona Simpson says it is “a shocking and completely unacceptable blow to our growing area”.
“News that $160m from the Sunshine Motorway/Nicklin Way upgrade (Mooloolah River Interchange) have been cut by federal Labor has thrown desperately needed safety upgrades into chaos,” she says.
“The Sunshine Coast is one of the fastest-growing regions in the state and in the country.
“The area needs this infrastructure now, not just in the future.”
Labor State Member for Caloundra Jason Hunt, speaking in state parliament on November 16, pointed the finger for the cuts at his federal counterparts.
“For my federal colleagues to so completely underestimate the needs of the Sunshine Coast and fall into the same trap is absolutely infuriating,” he says.
“We want that funding. We deserve that funding.
“It is not right and it is not fair,
“The MRI is a critical enabling piece of infrastructure to unlock congestion throughout the Sunshine Coast, providing north-south connectivity between Maroochydore and the southern growth areas.”
Sunshine Coast News reported in May that more than 130 properties had been acquired to make way for the MRI upgrade.
In a statement, the Department of Transport and Main Roads says it is working closely with the federal government on the outcomes of the review to understand the impacts and implications for Queensland projects.
Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson says negotiations with state and federal governments are ongoing and his council’s priority is to get “the very best outcome” for the Coast.
“Our council is very concerned that the Australian Government has withdrawn from funding two of the Sunshine Coast’s most vital transport infrastructure projects,” he says.
“Both of those projects are aimed at reducing traffic gridlock and helping the Sunshine Coast cope with the growth we’ve got now but also the growth we’re going to continue to see into the future, as well as being necessary to supporting the productivity and functionality of one of the fastest-growing regional economiesin Australia.
“If that is not consistent with national priorities, then I’m not sure what is.”
Cr Jamieson is expressing his hope that the MRI can still proceed.
“I would like to think it’s inevitable that the interchange will have to be built because the state is going to have to step up and fund that,” he says.
“We will work with them in terms of our commentary to the federal government about why that’s necessary and why it should continue to be funded.
“But ultimately, it’s a state road and the state will need to take care of it because it is a vital access point. It’s got implications around the mass-transit solution as well, and it’s just unsafe.
“It was built for a much, much smaller Sunshine Coast and much less traffic than we see today.”
Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace is also slamming the infrastructure review outcome.
“Clearly they have not been on the dangerous weaving lanes on Mooloolah River Interchange – this section of road has near-misses on a daily basis and is one of the worst intersections in the state, if not the country,” he says.
“Furthermore, we are in the middle of a very serious housing crisis.
“So, how can both governments explain why hundreds of residents have been displaced and evicted from their homes which were resumed to enable the construction of the Mooloolah River Interchange, when now it appears this project is dead in the water.”
But Ms King says that many projects that are being axed lack proper planning, do not have informed costings and are not ready for Commonwealth investment.