Cost variations blocking Hann Highway progress

Financial squabbles delay Hann Highway progress

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Getting ready to inspect the Hann Highway by chopper from Hughenden last Friday were Flinders shire mayor Greg Jones, state Treasurer Curtis Pitt and Member for Mount Isa, Rob Katter.

Getting ready to inspect the Hann Highway by chopper from Hughenden last Friday were Flinders shire mayor Greg Jones, state Treasurer Curtis Pitt and Member for Mount Isa, Rob Katter.

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Queensland Treasurer wants assurances of costs of sealing the remainder of Cairns-Melbourne missing link before committing government funds.

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Cost variations are the latest roadblock thrown up in the face of the group working to seal the remainder of the Hann Highway between Hughenden and Cairns, and help usher in a new era of prosperity for north Queensland.

When state Treasurer Curtis Pitt stopped in at Hughenden to inspect the missing link between Cairns and Melbourne on his way home from an economic forum in Cairns on Friday, a good understanding of how much money his government would have to commit was his main request.

"Estimates from the Department of Transport and local councils vary widely - we're talking tens of millions of dollars in variation," he said.

In addition, he said his government hadn't yet seen a firm funding commitment from the federal government.

Hann Highway Action Group chairman Russell Lethbridge said that despite the sticking points, the meeting had given him a lot of confidence that the project would go ahead.

"We took Treasurer Pitt up in a helicopter and showed him the work that had been done - all the black soil sections are done, and local government has done all the work," Mr Lethbridge said.

"I'd be pretty disappointed if we didn't have an announcement on this within the next three months. It was good that the Treasurer came out here to see it for himself, so we could get our points across."

Amongst them were a belief that local government could build the highway 30 to 40 per cent cheaper than Main Roads costings, thanks to a lack of huge establishment costs.

"Flinders and Etheridge shires will both be submitting very detailed costing analyses by the end of the week to back this up," Mr Lethbridge said.

The highway inspection and subsequent meeting that included the action group, Flinders and Etheridge shire representatives, Advance Cairns chairman Stewart Smith, the Hughenden Chamber of Commerce and NorthBEEF proponents, was organised by the Member for Mount Isa, Rob Katter.

“I’m confident we’ve put a good case for the Hann,” he said. “Probably the most critical part is the 80 per cent funding by the federal government. Senator Ian Macdonald has said they’re funding it and there’s a lot of rhetoric but it needs to be signed and sealed now.”

Mr Katter said if the federal government wanted to show its Developing the North white paper had credibility prior to the election next year, funding for the Hann Highway would have to be announced.

“The state government commitment is relatively minor and I’m confident they’ll come to the party, once the federal government commits on paper,” he said.

Backing up this belief is the knowledge that the biggest beneficiary of the highway’s sealing is the banana industry, which dominates Mr Pitt’s Mulgrave electorate.

The story Cost variations blocking Hann Highway progress first appeared on North Queensland Register.

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