Ingham small businesses have been left feeling gutted following news the Transport and Main Roads (TMR) Minister will forge ahead with the Ingham bypass, Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto said.
TMR has advised it will commence planning and consultation on the planned bypass between Ingham and Cardwell later this year, in a bid to flood proof the Bruce Highway which is often cut off during prolonged wet weather.
This would result in a new stretch of road being built that would remove highway traffic from passing through Ingham effectively moving the Bruce Highway west of the township.
Mr Dametto said although not a new concept, he shared the concerns of many residents and business owners and felt the Ingham bypass could be a recipe for disaster for our local economy. He said bypassing towns had the potential to have a devastating effect on rural communities.
“$40M of Federal funding is still on the table to improve flood immunity at the Gairloch washaway and not one day more of planning should take place on a bypass until this project is designed, constructed and completed,” he said.
“The State Government has an opportunity to reduce flooding along this section of the Bruce Highway here and now, and this project is being neglected to spend time on a fix that may be ten to twenty years away.
“Hinchinbrook never asked for this bypass, and in my opinion reducing critical mass flowing through our town centre would be disastrous, with the likelihood that some businesses would be forced to close.
“This bypass has the potential to cripple the Ingham CBD.
“Our coastal towns like Forrest Beach, Taylors Beach and Lucinda will also find themselves heavily affected by this bypass; everyone should be concerned,” he said.
It has been estimated the bypass will cause an economic loss of $6 million per annum to the Hinchinbrook Shire.
Mr Dametto said the Hinchinbrook Shire Council should be commended for their recent efforts on delivering a number of Works for Queensland projects across the shire designed to enhance the visitors’ experience and attract tourists to our region.
“These projects contribute to growing our tourism brand, The Hinchinbrook Way, and encourages visitors to stay longer and support our small businesses,” he said.
“However, if we have any chance of enticing travellers to turn off the future highway, it’s going to take a significant amount of State and Federal Government funding to construct large infrastructure projects.
“Both levels of government will need to invest in projects that enables tourism opportunities such as Forrest Beach and Lucinda all tidal access and the Paluma to Wallaman Falls Eco Trails to ensure our community’s survival.”
Mr Dametto is urging the Hinchinbrook community to consider these implications during the consultation phase, and to be vocal in raising their concerns.