Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin today placed the development and implementation of an integrated regional transport plan for northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland on the political agenda.
“A united regional approach is the only way to convince Federal and State governments to support major projects that redress an historic under-funding and neglect in our region of rail, road, air and public transport generally,” Ms Saffin said.
Ms Saffin has told the new Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils (NOROC) that she is quietly confident of securing Federal support for the development of a two-region integrated transport plan so that Northern Rivers also can access funds identified for nation-building projects.
“I am seeking the support of the New South Wales and Queensland governments, NOROC’s member councils and the South-East Queensland Council of Mayors to contribute financially to a plan that identifies transport needs on both sides of the border for now and the next half a century,” Ms Saffin said.
“The Northern Rivers Social Development Council has long advocated for a more co-ordinated planning of projects such as restoring commuter train services and enhancing Northern Rivers transport networks to better serve the people.
“And my Local 2020 Summits in Page also identified the lack of public transport as a major barrier to participation in the workforce, and access to health care and education.”
Ms Saffin said the region lost the Gold Coast Motorail service under the watch of then Liberal NSW transport minister Bruce Baird in the 1990s, and local National Party MPs were powerless to do anything about it.
“More recently, in 2004, Labor’s Michael Costa decommissioned the Casino to Murwillumbah line and left us in limbo,” she said.
“We can protest against the downgrading of rail services, as we should and as I have done since Baird’s day, but petitions and inquiries have not succeeded in bringing back the trains.
“We need a different approach. Working together we have the power to make a difference.”
Ms Saffin last year encouraged NOROC to commission a scoping study, which was advanced for the Northern NSW component and sent to Federal Labor MPs Justine Elliot (Richmond) and Brett Raguse (Forde).
“We agreed that the scoping study was a good start, but more data was needed from the Queensland side of the border before we could seek funds for a road-map which identifies what can be done realistically in the short term, and identifies our needs up to 2050 and beyond,” she said.