$375m inland hwy pledged
THERE was more than humidity in the air in Emerald yesterday, with Premier Campbell Newman injecting some excitement into local councillors and residents.
Mr Newman was in town to launch LNP candidate for Gregory Lachlan Millar's campaign and took the opportunity to make some announcements for locals.
A plan for significant upgrades to inland highways to create a sustainable alternative to the Bruce Hwy was unveiled, to the tune of $375 million.
The proposed upgrades track from the Queensland-New South Wales border through Emerald, Charters Towers and end just south of Cairns, crossing the Gregory Hwy, Burnett Hwy, Gregory Development Rd and New England Hwy.
Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Peter Maguire said there had been "a number of councils looking at this" and that the news would be welcomed around the state.
"Certainly the concept of the inland highway is one of the things we (the CHRC) mentioned in our 10-point plan to the candidates," Cr Maguire said.
"There is a great opportunity there."
Mr Millar said upgrading inland highways was "essential".
"This is critical for Emerald and the Central Highlands because of the flooding that we do have, and we get cut off with produce and goods in and also with what we have out," he said.
"This is great news, not only for Emerald, but right out up through to Clermont, through Blackwater and Duaringa."
Cr Maguire and Mr Millar agreed that while the upgrades were great news, there was still work to be done in western Queensland.
"We've got to fight... to make sure our roads are upgraded in western Queensland as well," Mr Millar said.
Cr Maguire said he hoped to see similar improvements made "down the track out west".
When announcing the commitment, Mr Newman said the upgrades would create 2250 jobs and would assist not only in "times of emergency" but also with the tourism industry.
He said the Bruce Hwy was depended on heavily, particularly by "grey nomads" and he hoped the inland upgrade would see traffic off the Bruce and into the regions.
"We will see far more people going west of the Divide, which is a great thing," Mr Newman said.
He said the money would be funded by the leasing of assets, a major sticking point for the LNP in the coming election.
Cr Maguire said after Emerald was cut off from all directions during the 2011 floods, upgrading road networks could only be good news.
"For me, the good thing about it is the money being injected back into infrastructure," he said.