Acting mayor Neil Fisher, councillor Ellen Smith and Advance Rockhampton executive manager Greg Bowden.
Acting mayor Neil Fisher, councillor Ellen Smith and Advance Rockhampton executive manager Greg Bowden.

Council: Capricorn Highway upgrades ’an election issue’

Representatives from Rockhampton Regional Council called more state and federally-funded upgrades to the Capricorn Highway "an election issue" on Thursday.

A suite of additions to the highway already due in mid-2021 includes intersection upgrades, wider roads, and overtaking lanes, but acting mayor Neil Fisher said more could be done for the sake of all towns along the route.

"Capricorn Highway has to be one of the most strategic, important pieces of road infrastructure anywhere in Queensland," he said, "and we know that the economic benefits not only for our part of the region, but also in growing the Galilee Basin, servicing the Bowen Basin, servicing our cattle industry, developing our tourist industry, particularly the drive tourism, but also there we need to actually have that connectivity that's still missing."

Cr Fisher said there were "missing links" limiting the size, number, and safety of vehicles on the highway, pointing to roads near Alpha, Jericho, Blackall, and Tambo.

Investments in those "pinch points", he said, would be "strategic" as an election year approached.

"This is going to be an election issue,' Cr Fisher said.

"We want more industry, we want more people using the highway, particularly that section from Emerald right through to Winton and then further on to Mount Isa.

"We know that cattle industry there would like to be able to move larger trucks closer to the coast.

"That means that cattle's coming to our area rather than going to Toowoomba and those other points. So it's having those rest points, it's having those passing lanes."

The upgrades being applied to the highway at the moment cost about $100 million.

Councillor Ellen Smith said the council got complaints about the highway "all the time" and that constituents had "always been critical of it".

"The Capricorn Highway carries a lot of traffic," she said.

"Up until Christmas last year, at least for the last six months of last year, there was up to 3000 head of cattle yarded at Gracemere every week.

"A large percentage of those cattle are coming from the west, so it's really, really important that road is upgraded.

"In our Rockhampton Regional Council areas, there is definitely a problem at Gogango or the Gogango Range; there has been a lot of truck accidents there. That's one area I would like to see upgraded as quickly as possible."

Advance Rockhampton executive manager Greg Bowden said Rockhampton was well positioned to provide road, rail, air and sea connections to central, western, and northern Queensland.

He called the highway "critical to our success and to our regional neighbours' success".

"With one-third of the cattle herd based in this east-west area, with one-fifth of Queensland's exports going out of here, the benefits for us and the corridor as far as all of our regional neighbours, Advance Rockhampton will continue to work with them to make sure we get the benefits of this.

"We're really just looking for them [the State and Federal Governments] to continue to make the investments here as their budget allows, and really not to forget Central Queensland and the western Queensland areas.

"We know budgets are tight at the moment across the board for all levels of government, but this is an ongoing exercise to just build those critical links over coming years."

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