War of words erupts over Trinity Inlet dredging cost blowout
THE Newman Government promises to come up with the money to dredge Trinity Inlet as a new report reveals the cost could nearly triple to $110 million.
But the Government also said it doubted whether the Commonwealth would approve the project.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke hit back at those doubts, saying it was "stupid" for the State Government to criticise an approvals process that had not started.
A study by Ports North has revealed dredging the inlet would cost between $80 million and $110 million – at least double what Premier Campbell Newman and Cairns MP Gavin King pledged for the project during this year’s election
The cost blowout sparked a clash between the State and Federal governments yesterday, but local business leaders said political squabbles needed to be set aside to get the project going.
Making the channel wider and deeper is considered crucial for attracting bigger cruise ships to Cairns and expanding the city’s naval base and port activity.
Despite the new price tag, Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney insisted he was committed to dredging Trinity
He said $40 million would be included in the September 11 Budget or "set aside" for future budgets.
But he again accused Mr Burke of showing no willingness to approve dredging plans across Queensland.
"We don’t believe the money will be the hardest thing to get, we think the approvals will be," Mr Seeney said.
"If Tony Burke and the Federal Government want to give us an approval, we’ve got the money."
He said any dredging activity in Trinity Inlet would be years away, if approved at all.
But Mr Burke said Mr Seeney’s criticism was the "stupidest" complaint he had ever heard from the Newman Government, given the project was in its infancy and no development applications had been referred to the Environment Department.
"The starting point on being able to deal with a decision is to get an application and of all the different claims that the Newman Government have made, this would have to be the stupidest," he said.
"They get on radio and complain about not getting an approval when they haven’t even put in an application."
Mr Seeney said an application to dredge the inlet would be lodged within weeks. Cairns-based Queensland Labor Senator Jan McLucas said the Newman Government was trying to back out of a costly election promise and find someone else to blame.
"This was always a hollow promise from Campbell Newman and Gavin King," she said.
"The LNP never budgeted for it during their campaign and they clearly haven’t done the necessary planning."
But Mr King insisted the project was progressing and a "feasibility study" was being considered.
Cairns Chamber of Commerce president Anthony Mirotsis said political fighting was an unwanted distraction and the project needed to keep moving.
He said it would be a major blow to the local economy if either level of government scuttled the project.
"There really is a brewing confidence in Cairns; I think we’re almost prepared to wear the delay of the entertainment precinct if some of these other things are happening," he said.
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We will find the money: A new report reveals it will cost $110 million to dredge Trinity Inlet.