Leaders from across regional Queensland have joined KAP Leader and Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter's calls for the Federal Government to fund the completion of the Hann Highway, ahead of the expected visit of the Prime Minister to North Queensland later this week.
"Finishing the Hann Highway will provide an inland route linking Cairns to Melbourne, saving approximately 750km off the trip," Mr Katter said.
"It will ensure that North Queensland's products, whether fruit and vegetables or cattle, gets down to the southern markets faster.
"It will be an alternate road to the Pacific Highway when it floods, which happens at least once each year, which will ensure continued access to markets year round.
"It will allow road trains to travel the entire distance without needing to unhook their trailers, drastically reducing cost, maintenance, fuel and fatigue management.
"It will save both in terms of fuel footprint and the increasing cost of congestion, maintenance and upgrade on the Pacific Highway.
"The credit for the completion of this great and critical piece of infrastructure for Australia will be remembered long into the future.
"If the Federal Government does not face up to their responsibilities with respect to the Hann Highway, then I'm confident the State Government will," Bob Katter said.
Mr Katter said he has urged the Prime Minister and relevant Ministers that the Hann Highway is a critical element in the go-forward program for Northern Australia. He said that there is an uncharacteristic unanimity right across North Queensland on this issue and the Government needed to heed the calls.
Robbie Katter, State Member for Mount Isa, said that he'd had very positive signs that the State Government was considering funding the project as well.
"It's been high on the KAP agenda for a long time and there's a high chance that we'll get the support at a State level in the next budget.
"People are screaming for national projects, this one is of national significance that can be delivered for around $89 million, it represents good value to the tax paper," Robbie Katter said.
Shane Knuth, State Member for Dalrymple, said he also hoped to see funding come from both State and Federal Governments shortly.
"There is no doubt about it, this will provide the avenue for produce going from the Tablelands to the southern markets.
"It will give greater access to open up the Far North and the North West regions," Mr Knuth said.
Russell Lethbridge, Chairman of the Hann Highway Action Group, said that to him it was a 'no-brainer' in terms of regional development of the North Queensland region.
"It has the full support of the greater Cairns community because the benefits of this road are so far reaching.
"The benefits aren't isolated to the people that live along the road, they will stretch from Weipa to Melbourne in terms of access to transport routes.
"There is only 125km of road that needs to be sealed to complete the highway, so to me it's not a big commitment when you see what else is being built in the country.
"Right now the western communities are struggling, this will get money flowing into those regions.
"I've been to Canberra two or three times on this over the last 12 years, we often get the ball rolling and then we have a change of Government. But Bob Katter has been a champion of the project from the start and is aware of the opportunities that will present for the region once this is completed," Mr Lethbridge said.
Les Carter, President of the Hughenden Chamber of Commerce, called on the Government to assure funding within three years.
"Our research shows that if the Hann Highway receives funding, it could be built within three years. We have the resources, we have the machinery, we have the local workforce, we just need the funding.
"The Hann Highway will help regional development, from the north to the south and every little industry along the way. The little towns that are struggling will benefit big time with the flow on effect of inland traffic.
"The Hann Highway Action Group and the KAP have given this project their full support at the Federal and State level over the last 10 years, but we can't wait another 10 years, this needs to happen now," Mr Carter said.
Flinders Shire Council Mayor Greg Jones said that finishing the Hann Highway was vital to his area.
"The Hann Highway will link up with the Torrens Creek Road to provide an alternate road to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
"It will take major traffic off the Bruce Highway and provide a route where truckies can pull three trailers all the way through to Burke in New South Wales.
"It will increase productivity and development of the inland area, for all the people providing services in the Etheridge and Hughenden areas," Mr Jones said.
Will Atwood, Mayor of Etheridge Shire Council, called for local workforce to complete the construction of the Highway.
"When the Hann Highway is funded we'd like to see money allocated to local Governments so that local workers have the ability to do the work.
"It's going through our shire, so let our shire people do the work on it, not only driving on the road but constructing it," Mr Atwood said.
Trent Twomey, Chairman of Advance Cairns echoed calls for funding for the Highway to be made available to local councils.
"We re-affirm our position that the funds should be made available to the Etheridge and Flinders Shire Councils for the utilisation of local workforce.
"The Hann Highway remains one of the core eight priorities to turbo-charge the tropical North Queensland economy," Mr Twomey said.
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