Speech - Cardwell Road Realignment Dedication - Friday 4th April 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a real pleasure for me to be here today, representing Warren Truss the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, at this significant opening.

Not only does the work make the road safer and more productive for all of the users but it also, I think, assists with the tourism gems that we have in the north of our State.

Ive been travelling this road for, I regret to say, almost 50 years and Im one of those, like so many others, whove, on too many occasions, paid more attention to the scenery than the road as youve come up the highway over the peak. For that reason and for many others, it is a great pleasure to be here.

David (Atkinson), thanks very much to you. Its great to see here Roger Bow, the Mayor of the Hinchinbrook Council and particularly to recognise Mrs Mary Wetherell and her sons Josh and Ben here. As I said to her earlier, its a tragedy that they are here, we really would have wished that you werent here today for this reason but as things have turned out, it is important for you to unveil a special memorial in conjunction with this significant piece of infrastructure. I also acknowledge Les Moffitt from the Northern District Rail, Tram and Bus Union who were very instrumental in lobbying for this particular facility as well and Phil thanks very much for your Welcome to Country on behalf of the Traditional Owners and congratulations on the work you continue to do in this area. Its great to see you all.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a project, which many of you will know, cost almost $200 million, the Commonwealth putting in about $130 million of it, the State putting in the rest and a bit of interest going towards it as well. Its been a project a long time in coming.

I should also recognise so many of the Police Force here as well. Theyve had their issues on this road over many years. Its been an expensive project, and, as I say, too late in the coming, but at last its here.

I often think, and have said publicly many times, that this is a construction work that has been held up because of too many concerns about too many environmental issues, which are very important, but when it comes to environmental issues compared to the safety of human beings, Ill always go with the safety of human beings. It was a challenge to get the design and the work actually done. Many of you might remember that planning on this realignment started in 2006, under the Howard government, after the tragic death of a young fellow named Benjamin Dickson and you may also remember the campaign that his father, Barry, conducted to have this road upgraded. The work began planning this upgrade in the year of his sons death, and in 2008, the death of two tilt train drivers, Rick Wetherell and Mick Smithers in a collision with a B Double at the level crossing at Rungoo, increased the urgency for this work to this done. I want to publicly; as I did privately, pass on to Mrs Wetherell and her family the condolences of the Australian people through the Australian Government for that loss.

Four kilometres of highway have been realigned and this includes extensions for overtaking lanes, construction of new lanes, straightening of sections of dangerous road. If my arithmetic serves me correctly, thats about $50 million a kilometre which is probably one at the top end of your costs per kilometre David, but it certainly wasnt without its challenges I am told. During the construction, some 10.3 metres of rain fell in this area and you dont need to be an infrastructure engineer to work out just what that would have done to the timetables for the construction.

The new overpass, over the railway line, will avoid the sort of tragedies weve seen at the level crossing in the past.

The view from this lookout is one of the most spectacular parts on the Bruce Highway between Brisbane and, dare I say Cooktown, and rarely do you see scenery like this. For years Ive noticed, as Im sure the police have as well, tourists parked badly and illegally all over the place as they just stop to see what is one of the most magnificent views that youll get from anywhere. I can understand why the locals are so proud of this area. Its just a fantastic place.

Can I just finish by congratulating all those involved, who I wont be able to name obviously, but from the planners, from the machinery drivers, the people on the shovels, the environmentalists, the police, whove done their job here as well, all of those whove had some type of role in planning and constructing this wonderful piece of infrastructure. It would have been one of the more difficult road constructions for many years. It is a credit to all of those whove been involved and as a result of their work we do now have a road which is safe, which increases productivity and which even in a better way, promotes some of the magnificent scenery we have in the north of our State. To all of those involved, congratulations and I know for all users they will appreciate this work for many years to come and with that, I officially on behalf of the State and Federal Governments commission the opening of this magnificent piece of infrastructure.

On behalf of everyone involved, I declare this officially open and in so doing I recognise the role played by Andrew Cripps, the local State Member, whos also the Minister for Natural Resources, in the work that has been done by those who did the work. I declare the Cardwell Range Realignment officially commissioned.

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