Central Highlands beef producer Bernadette Paine.
Central Highlands beef producer Bernadette Paine.

‘The let-down factor’: CQ mayors form beef road advocacy group

Seven mayors from Central and Western Queensland have launched an infrastructure advocacy campaign on behalf of the beef industry.

The Gladstone, Isaac, Banana, Central Highlands, Woorabinda, Barcaldine and Blackall-Tambo mayors formed the Queensland Beef Corridors group to call on the State and Federal Governments to upgrade roads in their regions that allow agriculture to flourish.

Central Highlands Mayor Kerry Hayes said that the seven local government areas provided a quarter of the country’s cattle, but the associated infrastructure was lacking.

“We already have a strong commitment from the State and Federal governments to improve key freight routes and connectivity between agricultural regions and ports,” he said.

“But on a local level, our producers are suffering daily because there are too many neglected links in our transportation network.

“They experience the flow-on effects of these gaps every day. It is detrimental to locals running effectively running their businesses and it is holding our industry back.

“These feeder roads are our missing links and to get them sealed and up to a standard, we are asking for a staged, $400 million investment to give our communities and the industry the confidence it needs.”

The councils involved invested $28,000 in the Queensland Beef Corridors group.

“Our decision-making is driven by data and this collaboration and collective focus will allow us to do more analysis for better results in the future,” Mr Hayes said.

“If we want this industry to grow and generate much-needed jobs and economic activity then we need to ensure the future health of this critical road network.

“The aim of the Queensland Beef Corridors campaign is to eliminate road disruption and the added logistical costs substandard roads create.”

Central Highlands mayor Mayor Kerry Hayes.
Central Highlands mayor Mayor Kerry Hayes.

Bernadette Paine, a beef producer and member of a road users group in the Central Highlands, owns 2,500 cattle.

She distributes them to meatworks, generally in Rockhampton.

The trip takes six hours, but Ms Paine said the first 200km, an unsealed portion of Dawson Development Road between Springsure and Tambo, takes two and a half to three hours.

She said if it were sealed, that initial phase of the journey would be cut down to an hour or an hour and a half.

“We can produce an animal that will grace the tables of America and Japan, Europe, wherever, but the first 200km of her journey is the hardest part because of our roads,” Ms Paine said.

“It’s about, for us, getting our product to market in good shape, in the times that are set – the parameter of the market – and efficiently.”

She called the roads “the let-down factor” of the beef industry.

Ken Dillon has been a livestock trucker since 1988.

For 16 years, he has owned and operated Clermont Livestock Transport.

Born and bred in Central Queensland and the beef industry, he concedes that roads have improved since he first started and that strategic investment is good.

But the gravel roads he still travels on each day hurt profit and disrupt the supply chain.

“When you have your week planned out and it rains, you have to shift that to the following week and it snowballs into another job and turns to chaos,” he said.

“The people who have to clear the cattle to go to a feedlot or another property, have to let them go for three or four days and then start their dipping program again.

“If they go to a processing plant, they have to find other cattle to process if the scheduled load doesn’t arrive, and so it has this flow-on effect for everyone.”

As an area delegate of the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Queensland, Mr Dillon regularly meets with industry leaders, but feels as though they’re not being listened to.

“In my opinion, the people who make the decisions aren’t where the action is going on but in metropolitan areas, they need to be more hands-on, get out, and work out what’s going on,” he said.

Isaac mayor Anne Baker said that discussion about poor roads had been “going on for decades”.

“What we’ve basically done is come together to lead the conversation, and put simply, Central Queensland is the powerhouse of the agricultural sector,” she said.

“In fear of repeating the data: over $1.7 billion worth of export output – we’ve got over 2000km worth of less-than-standard-roads that these businesses have to travel on, and it’s huge.

“It’s one thing for state to do some planning, and the feds to do some planning … We need to look at the holistic plan of what the connectivity of the roads looks like.”

Banana Shire mayor Nev Ferrier said that without investment in roads, it took longer for cattle truck drivers to reach their destinations and, in the long run, cost more in maintenance.

Road Safety and Freight Transport Assistant Minister Scott Buchholz was present at the Beef Corridors announcement.

He commended the formation of the group and suggested the mayors apply for already-existing funding programs.

The group hosted an invite-only launch event in Rockhampton on Wednesday night attended by producers, truckers, and representatives from the State and Federal Governments.

Originally published as ‘The let-down factor’: CQ mayors form beef road advocacy group