June 27th 2011
Islanders rally against the accident that's waiting to happen
Democracy found its feet on Magnetic Island yesterday afternoon at Geoffrey Bay where a real, marching, protest rally made its way along the foreshore to the base of the hill over to Nelly Bay. And, while Townsville is sending itself into a lather anticipating a festival of extreme oil consumption, it was indeed gratifying to see around 280 Islanders rally to resolve the most pressing issue of public safety on Magnetic Island. Public safety from vehicles and an opportunity to dramatically increase carbon-free walking and cycling between the Island's bays in the completion of the Nelly Bay to Arcadia walkway.
Mr Cameron Turnbull, President of Magnetic Island Resident's and Ratepayers Association (MIRRA), which organised the rally, pointed out that the completion of the walkway - costed at approximately $4.8M - has been an issue of concern to Islanders over many elections and still nothing has been done. He introduced a number of politicians, starting with Deputy Mayor David Crisafulli who was impressed that Islanders from all political persuasions were together on this issue.
As Magnetic Times was busy snapping photos of the event, we sought and received statements from the politicians who recapped their speeches from the rally.
Were you there too?
David Crisafulli addresses the rally
Ewen Jones, Federal member for Herbert, said: “This was a great show of community support for a sensible, overdue project.
“With a federal budget of over $350billion, you would think that a significant public safety project costing less than $5million could be found. They have found $10million for a union website which was not an election promise or commitment. They found $1million per year for potted plants in the Department of Education in Canberra alone each and every year, but cannot find less than $5million to value add to this regions peak tourism destination.
Ewen Jones in action
“I have spoken about the walkway in Parliament and I have made representations to Simon Crean who is the Minister responsible. He has again said that the promise was made by a candidate was not approved by campaign headquarters. I told him that the Prime Minister stood at the despatch box and told parliament that whether the promise was made by a Minister or a Candidate and whether they won or lost the seat, that promise would be met.
“The Townsville City Council has sent in an application for funding to the Regional Development Fund. Minister Crean said he would give it his personal attention. It has the NQ RDA Committee’s support.
“There is a problem with the RDA fund you may want to know about. The Perth airport is having a $450million upgrade to it under Regional Development Australia funds (the whole fund is less than $1billion). They are doing this because it will make it easier for regional workers to get to and from Perth. In Senate Estimates, Barnaby Joyce asked the Government if they put the proposition that refurbishing the Sydney Opera House would bring more people to Australia and therefore they could travel to Regional Australia as part of that trip, then would it be possible to have those costs met under the RDA funding guidelines. The answer the Government gave was “Yes”. That is very worrying.
“I have also been able to re-confirm that Tony Abbott and Warren Truss, as Coalition Leader and Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, will get this walkway done if we are in Government.
Magnetic Island Councillor, Trevor Roberts
Magnetic Island Councillor, Trevor Roberts provided this statement, "When I drove from the Nelly Bay Harbour to Bright Avenue for the start of the rally coming around the headland I almost ran over a couple walking along the hillside on the road. Immediately around the next bend was two more. During the afternoon I saw people on bikes, walking bikes and walking outside the safety barriers on this headland. It is so dangerous I don't know how nobody has been killed or seriously injured.
"We've had endless promises without from both sides of politics for no outcome. We now have a firm commitment from the opposition. We need now to convince the Federal Government. Council currently has yet another application before the feds seeking the funding. It should not take a death on this road to get the support we need. We must separate the road from the pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
"This walkway is also vital to tourism on the island. The walkway will become an icon and visitors will spread the word they return home and tell their friends. Tourist operators are doing it tough, the walkway will provide a much needed shot in the arm for years to come. For me one very important aspect of the walkway is that it will cater for all abilities. People with a disability will be able to enjoy the beauty of the island in safety and comfort along with everyone else, as the so rightly deserve.
"This project is not just about the visitors, it's about the locals and what it adds to their quality of life on a daily basis. The island community came together as one as I've not seen before for the rally and I will do everything I can to pursue the result we deserve."
Cr Jenny Hill reads a message from Mandy Johnstone
Cr Jenny Hill also attended and read a statement from State Member, Mandy Johnstone who was unable to attend. In it she said, “It is important to me for the local community to know that I fully support the walkway between Nelly Bay and Geoffrey Bay. During a recent visit to the island I walked this stretch of the island on two occasions and fully understand the safety issues and the need for the walkway to be completed.
“I am always looking for opportunities to support our local government in improving council controlled assets on the island, including this particular need. To that end, I am meeting with Glenys Schuntner, CEO, Regional Development Australia Townsville and North West Queensland this week. I want to make sure we get our fair share of the pie that is on offer from RDA.
“In addition to this, I will continue to look for other funding opportunities across all levels of government for this walkway.”
In his speech Cr Roberts had also commented that the project was “shovel ready” - a gaff which was quickly pounced upon by Cr Hill who, correctly pointed out that Saturday’s Townsville Bulletin had a tender advertised seeking a consultant team for the walkway; inviting architects, civil engineers, structural engineers and geotechnical engineers to apply. Hardly shovel ready but, if shovels were the order of the day, Cr Hill began shovelling it on too: telling Magnetic Times that this project could have been completed five years ago. Strangely, in 2005, during a period in which Cr Hill was acting mayor, in an article titled ‘Hill has “bizarre attitude” says Lindsay’, (read here) the then federal member for Herbert, Peter Lindsay was “beside himself” over how funding for the completion of the Nelly to Arcadia walkway was botched when the former council filled out the wrong application forms. In that story, which Cr Hill never attempted to correct, we reported Peter Lindsay saying of the funding application, It was for recurrent maintenance which is not in the guidelines and should have been for capital works. "I said, I will hold on to the funds while you submit a new application." But the new application remained with the Nelly to Picnic proposal still on it.
Cr Hill with MIRRA President Cameron Turnbull
Shovels aside, yesterday’s rally, the latest of many efforts by Islanders to seek an end to this accident waiting to happen, showed a great cross section of locals with different and sometimes opposing viewpoints, coming together to press for safety infrastructure which, when, one day it is achieved, will benefit thousands and finally make walking and cycling between three major Island settlements a viable reality.
Part of the most dangerous section of the road(Photo courtesy HO McColl)
Story & photos: George Hirst
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