Advance Cairns says Budget offered ‘slim pickings’ for the region

BUDGET REACTION – Advance Cairns has reported that while the 2024-2025 Federal Budget was big on national initiatives, it was short on specific commitments to Cairns and Far North Queensland.

Advance Cairns, the leading independent economic development and advocacy organisation in Far North Queensland, said while the Budget introduced welcome measures to address cost-of-living pressures and skills shortages in regional Australia, it failed to deliver on key projects such as the Cairns Water Security project.

“We are hard pressed to find any demonstrable new investments in what is Northern Australia’s most populated region, which is deeply disappointing,” Advance Cairns chair, Nick Trompf said. 

“We will continue to push for additional funds to support Cairns Water Security Project Stage 1, which is a vital piece of infrastructure. Without these additional funds to meet the rising construction and materials costs, this project will in fact add to further cost-of-living pressures for all Cairns ratepayers.

“We will continue to support council’s efforts to generate understanding of the cost levers which have resulted in widespread infrastructure build hikes across the nation. Cairns Regional Council is certainly not unique across Australia in facing major construction cost rises.

“We are hopeful that the door remains open to increased funding of this important initiative and we will continue to push for this critical investment,” Mr Trompf said.

The Budget also did not address a range of other initiatives in the Advance Cairns submission including:

  • Roads projects of $106m for Savannah Way, $30m for the Kennedy Developmental Road and $20m for a study into alternative routes to the northern Tablelands;
  • Establishing an ‘Office of the Pacific’ in Cairns;
  • $500,000 per year in recurrent funding for five years for COUCH Wellness Centre in Cairns;
  • and $12m for further upgrades to the city’s three shipyards.

Mr Trompf said the Budget included $14-$18bn over the next 10 years for defence infrastructure to create what is described as a ’logistically connected and resilient set of bases, ports and barracks across Australia’s north’.

“This might have implications in key assets such as HMAS Cairns, the Cairns Marine Precinct and the Scherger Air Force base, near Weipa,” Mr Trompf said.

CEO of Advance Cairns Jacinta Reddan said while the lack of direct investment in the region “was incredibly disappointing” there were some areas for optimism. 

She said Advance Cairns welcomed the investment in the Future Made in Australia initiative, recognising its potential to stimulate the region’s economy and result in jobs growth.

“We are encouraged by the opportunities, particularly in onshoring advanced manufacturing in the clean energy and renewables sector,” Ms Reddan said.

“We are also keen to better understand how the commitment of about $41 million over two years to fast-track Nature Positive reforms will benefit Far North Queensland. This initiative holds promise for our region, as it aims to attract private investment in nature regeneration and restoration – assets our region has in abundance.

“We also welcome critically needed reforms to the EPBC (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) and look forward to learning more about how this can improve the current opaque approvals process,” she said.

In addition, Advance Cairns welcomed the Budget’s support for apprenticeships, particularly those in regional Australia, as well as initiatives to grow the construction workforce and boost housing supply.

“We are particularly pleased to see the extension of the Approved Destination Status regime for visitors from China, building a strong foundation for the return of the China group travel market,” Ms Reddan said.

“As always with Budgets, the devil is in the detail and we look forward to drilling down into more information about the specific implications for our region,” she said.


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