Mayor Bill Ludwig is calling for Defence funds to be used to upgrade roads such as Stanage Bay
Mayor Bill Ludwig is calling for Defence funds to be used to upgrade roads such as Stanage Bay Australian Defence Force

Defence's plan to block Stanage township riles Ludwig

A request by the Australian Defence Force to close public access to a coastal township near Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area has infuriated Livingstone Shire's mayor who says "enough is enough".

Angry that the federal government wouldn't come to the party with the necessary money to upgrade and maintain Stanage Bay road, it was the final straw for Cr Ludwig when the ADF requested another substantive closure of public access to Stanage Township at the peak of the tourist and recreational fishing season.

Located at the end of Stanage Bay Road, Stanage Township is located close to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area.

Cr Ludwig said originally, 'Declared Defence Areas' were requested by ADF as a way of keeping out "protesters and undesirables", but said it was increasingly evident that this declaration was more about managing the risks they were being created by not upgrading critical access roads.

"The 'Defence Area' declaration gives ADF sweeping powers to turn away 'grey nomads', tourist visitors, and recreational fishers including Livingstone and Rockhampton residents who cannot provide proof they have made an advanced accommodation booking," Cr Ludwig said.

"Closures like this would not be necessary if the Australian Government did the right thing and upgrade Stanage Bay Road to the appropriate bitumen sealed standard so it can safely run major international army exercises like Talisman Sabre without effectively locking-out a major proportion of Stanage Bay Township's tourist and recreational fishing visitations.

"The Australian Government has a moral responsibility to invest the money required to bring army access roads up to the appropriate national 'fit for purpose' safety standards."

Cr Ludwig said widening and bitumen sealing Stanage Bay Road would not only make the road fit for purpose and improve Australian Defence Forces (ADF) operational capability, but would also ensure this important local road was kept open and civilian road users are kept safe.

"The much-needed road upgrades will also improve disaster management, emergency access, and dramatically reduce long-term maintenance costs," Cr Ludwig said.

Capricorn Enterprise chief executive Mary Carroll said Stanage Bay was one of the best fishing spots in Queensland and said tourism was critical to the economy

"Stanage Bay businesses rely heavily upon the upcoming Easter holidays followed by our peak winter tourism season so any closure or disruption to trade could be catastrophic," Ms Carroll said.

Assistant Minister for Defence David Fawcett said Defence area declarations were a routine mechanism used by Defence to advise the community of pending Defence activity, such as large Defence exercises, and enable safe co-existence with the community in the most effective way.

"The Defence Declaration Area excludes Stanage Bay Road. It is not Defence's intention to exclude residents from their properties in SWBTA," Senator Fawcett said.

He met with Mayor Ludwig in Rockhampton last week and subsequently wrote to him regarding the issue of road maintenance in the Livingstone Shire Council.

Senator Fawcett directed Defence to meet with the LSC to work toward a long-term solution and establish the best mechanism to ensure that any impacts from ADF's use of the shire's infrastructure was managed appropriately.

"Defence has made contributions in excess of $10 million to both the Livingstone Shire Council and Rockhampton Regional Council for the maintenance of roads it uses, and will continue to do so on a case-by-case basis," Senator Fawcett said.

"While plans are at an early stage, the Shoalwater Bay Training Area expansion offers an opportunity for Defence to work closely with the Council to understand future road use requirements and identify key areas of concern for the Council.

"Defence intends to re-orient range infrastructure towards the Bruce Highway, to reduce military traffic use of Council-funded roads."

Upon reading Senator Fawcett's response, Cr Ludwig questioned whether the minister had a clear understanding of the two key issues at hand.

"These key issues were explained in some detail in progressively updated submissions that Council provided to the current Australian Government over the past five years," Cr Ludwig said.

"The most recent updated version of the submission was provided to Assistant Minister Fawcett, Assistant Minister Ciobo and Defence Minister Christopher Pyne some weeks ago."

The mayor said the submission covered two distinct long-running issues:

1. The provision of capital funding to complete the capital works including widening and bitumen sealing of the balance areas of Stanage Bay Road to the main army gate.

"In 2006-7 Livingstone Shire Council secured $7.4 million of capital funding not maintenance. Former Defence Minister Robert Hill provided this initial capital funding to upgrade Rossmoya Rd, Raspberry Creek Road, and the first stages of a planned sealing program on Stanage Bay Road," Cr Ludwig said.

"This current submission is now requesting the balance of funding required to complete those capital upgrades of Stanage Bay to the main entry gate as previously planned. This require a further $21.6 million to complete those necessary upgrade works on Stanage Bay Road."

2. The second issue is the need for a fair and binding maintenance contribution agreement over all the current army access roads including Stanage Bay Road.

"Council is asking Assistant Minister Fawcett to honour the original intent which was to progressively provide upgrade funding to widen and bitumen seal the balance of unsealed area of this key army access route," he said.