The seven councils of central western Queensland are calling on the state government to start work on its commitment to help rural, regional and remote Queenslanders who use regulated transport routes arrive at the best possible solutions for their remote air services.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) gave an undertaking at a forum organised by the Remote Area Planning and Development Board (RAPAD) in July last year to start work to form a stakeholder group that would have input and provide guidance into the next tender process for the regulated air transport routes across regional and remote Queensland.
Regulated transport routes are select routes servicing regional and remote communities, which are subsidised by the state government and contracted out for a fixed period to select airline operators through a tender process
Eight months ago, tourism, health, community and industry representatives gathered in Brisbane to develop a position on air services because of community concern that the current contracts were failing to deliver in some cases, a suitable but more particularly an affordable air service.
“TMR were part of that forum, and at the time they committed to work together. Unfortunately, the terms of reference for a proposed working group model has been with the Minister’s office for at least six months. Stakeholders are now asking why is it taking so long to review and approve the proposed consultation and stakeholder working group model?” Outback Regional Roads and Transport Group Chair Councillor Bruce Scott said.
The stakeholder working group was to represent all outback Queensland, and was to be established in part, to consider the outcomes and recommendations from the Australian Government’s Senate Inquiry into the Operation, Regulation and Funding of Air Routes Service Delivery to Rural, Regional and Remote Communities.
The senate inquiry’s reporting has been delayed three times and is now due to report at the end of June 2019.
“An 18-month delay in the federal sphere shouldn’t stop the Queensland Government from working with outback communities who need better functioning, cost effective, appropriate and accessible transport routes now,” Councillor Scott said.
“A fast, safe, affordable connection is vital, so outback people can access services that are just not available locally. Services like specialist health care, grow and develop business or professional skills, catch up with families and friends and engage with leisure and culture outside the region are extremely important to these communities,” he said.
“It’s not just locals who want to travel that are affected, it’s limiting our tourism industry’s potential, accessing professional support, additional health services, educational opportunity and social inclusion” Councillor Scott said.
The contracts on seven regulated air routes are due to expire on the 31 December 2019.
“Outback Queensland needs the Queensland Government to work with the community to ensure tax payers dollars are responsibly spent, and the services offered are affordable, and are what is truly needed to bridge the divide associated with families and individuals living and working in regional and remote communities,” he said.
“I respectfully ask the Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Hon Mark Bailey to let’s make a start today to get this stakeholder group together, as there is no reason the state government should wait any longer to broker the best possible outcome for the travel needs for regional and remote communities - using the knowledge and experience that exists across this vast region of Queensland ,” Councillor Scott said.