O'Dowd to 'consider' $100m in funds for port access rd

UPDATE: 

FLYNN MP Ken O'Dowd says it's the State Government holding up development of the Gladstone Port Access Road.

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He said a detailed investigation showed funding stages 2 and 3 of the road would cost upwards of $200 million and the state government "didn't feel like putting in" to fund the project.

The new costing is listed in a report finished last year that both the state and federal governments have declined to release to The Observer.  

"It wasn't in the budget because it's a road going nowhere at the moment, that is until the state government wants to push it," Mr O'Dowd said.

"There's been no indication from state government that this project is a priority."

Queensland Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey didn't deny his government had said the project "wasn't a priority", but hit back at Ken O'Dowd for allowing the funding to spent elsewhere in the first place.

"At no stage am I aware of Mr O'Dowd fighting to have this Federal funding returned to Gladstone as the local Federal MP for the area," Minister Bailey said in a written statement. 

"All future state government funding for any upgrades on the road network are determined against competing state-wide priorities.  

"That competition is much harder after the previous LNP Government wasted $30 million of the roads budget on secret asset sales and contestability preparations, as well as cutting more than $600 million from transport and roads funding."  

Gladstone state MP Glenn Butcher has clearly stated that he considers securing funding for the port access road a major issue, given the money was committed under the last Labor government, then removed by LNP.

However Ken O'Dowd says it's a project his party is willing to fund, but not without support from the State Government.

"We would consider putting up 50% of the $200 million, but there's been no request to even look at that," Mr O'Dowd said. 

EARLIER:

THE battle drums may have begun beating ahead of the federal election, but Gladstone residents will need to listen hard for any sign they haven't been forgotten.

There were few items for Gladstone in the latest federal budget announced on May 3 and no sign of the $50 million supposedly promised in the 2014-2015 budget for stages 2 and 3 of the Gladstone Port Access Road.

Now, neither of the two major parties are prepared to promise that a vote for them will guarantee that funding comes back to Gladstone.  

Labor Party candidate Zac Beers this week said finishing the port access road was "critical to ensuring new investment and jobs" for Gladstone.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten with his wife Chloe and Labor candidate for Flynn Zac Beers. Photo Campbell Gellie / The Observer
Opposition leader Bill Shorten with his wife Chloe and Labor candidate for Flynn Zac Beers. Photo Campbell Gellie / The Observer Campbell Gellie

However he didn't make any promises that Labor would re-instate the funding, instead relying on Bill Shorten's comments from March that the party was "very open" to the project.

Flynn's Liberal National Party member Ken O'Dowd, who will be taking a tilt at another four years in government on July 2, is yet to respond to requests for comment today.

But Mr O'Dowd has previously insisted the money is still available, despite The Observer revealing in July that the cash had been spent elsewhere in the state, detailed in letters between federal ministers.

Since the state government committed $40 million in March to upgrading five timber bridges between Biloela and Gladstone, ensuring the next stages of the port access go ahead has become more pressing.

Extract from federal infrastructure minister's 2104-2015 budget statements committing funding for Gladstone's port Access Road.
Extract from federal infrastructure minister's 2104-2015 budget statements committing funding for Gladstone's port Access Road.

Gladstone MP Glenn butcher said it would be a major issue for the region heading into the July elections.

"(The port access road) is an essential piece of infrastructure that will provide future diversification of our port, and safely remove heavy vehicles that use the port from our local streets," Mr Butcher said.

When asked in July, Mr O'Dowd said the original $50 million in funding had been delayed by his request for a report investigating whether the proposed route should be changed.

That report was finalised late last year and both the LNP federal and Labor State Government have declined to release it. 

Follow this reporter on Twitter @helenspelitis



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