Today the farming town of Mareeba, to the west of Cairns with a population of 15,000, came of age. The first permanent traffic lights ever seen on the Atherton Tablelands were turned on this afternoon but the traffic outcome was not what The Main Roads Department had expected.
Costing $3.47 million, the new lights at the Byrnes and Rankin Street intersection were predicted to improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.
Instead a traffic jam of Rodeo Procession proportion saw cars and trucks backed up for more than one kilometre along the main thoroughfare of Byrnes Street for more than an hour, coinciding with school departures at 3pm.
Mareeba Shire Council has had almost no involvement with the construction of the lights and the new intersection as Byrnes St is the responsibility of TMR.
Residents and business proprietors have questioned why traffic lights replaced a large roundabout when a gazetted but unmade vehicle bypass skirts the CBD which would alleviate the extremely high volume of traffic movements along Byrnes Street.
Katters Australian Party spokesman for FNQ Alan Webb said the bypass should have been constructed a decade ago removing the need for traffic lights and taking large trucks out of the main street.
“These single semitrailers carrying Cairns garbage, soon cane trucks and heavy trucks traveling to the west and north every day are an accident waiting to happen,” Mr Webb said.
“I know (Member for Kennedy) Bob Katter has been in talks with TMR in Cairns and federal authorities in Canberra about funding for the bypass but neither the state government nor the federal government want to know about it.”
Mareeba mother, Ann-Marie Keating was quite worried when it took the school bus an extra 40 minutes to go past the gate to their small farm, 6 klms from town.
“I had picked up the kids from school because of the traffic and it took me over 40 minutes to get home instead of 15 and the bus was just behind me,” Ms Keating said.
“On Monday I don’t know if the bus will come early to get the kids to school on time. The kids will have to get up early to make it then if it is 40 minutes late again it will be a long day for them.
“It could be a very long day on the bus for kids from further out.
“There were temporary traffic lights set up at Centenary Park and Anzac Avenue intersection that made the congestion worse than Cairns.”
Member for Cook Cynthia Lui has been contacted for comment.
The Member for Cook, Cynthia Lui, has ended speculation she plans to relocate her Mareeba electorate office to Cairns.
In a media release Ms Lui confirmed she will shift the office to Cairns but had not taken the decision lightly.
“This year, I have been out talking and listening to the people of Cook and one issue that was raised time and time again was having an office space that is readily accessible to everyone,” Ms Lui said.
“I acknowledge the view that Cairns is not in the Cook electorate, it is however, the most central location for the large number of constituents who live in the Cook electorate.
“Historically the Cook electorate office has been in Cairns. The move to Mareeba was a decision made during the Campbell Newman Government.
“I will still continue to work hard for the people of Mareeba by visiting regularly and holding mobile offices.”
Speculation has been mounting for several weeks among Mareeba Labor Party members that Ms Lui had asked the Speaker of Parliament, Curtis Pitt to relocate the Post Office Arcade office to Cairns.
A spokesman for the Speaker said it was up to each Member to decide the location of their electorate office and “it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”
Mareeba ALP member Anne-Marie Keating said she was “very disappointed” that Ms Lui had decided to “disenfranchise Mareeba residents, leaving them no representation.
“Pensioners and indigenous people won’t be able to get help with government agencies because the office is in Cairns and trying to sort out issues over the phone will be impossible,” Ms Keating said.
“Just because Ms Lui and her staff live in Cairns is not an excuse to move the office. She promised not to shift the office at the pre-selection meeting and this was one of the conditions on which she was nominated as a candidate.”
Ms Lui also has an office on Thursday Island.
Katters Australia Party will be conducting a series of public meetings beginning Wednesday April 12, at Mareeba, Innisfail and Port Douglas to gauge support for crocodile egg removal and safari hunting legislation to be introduced into the Queensland parliament.
Further meetings will be held at Mossman and Innisfail where salt water crocodiles have attacked humans or animals and menaced tourists over the past few months.
Where: Mareeba Bowls Club, Anzac Avenue at 1.30 to 2.30pm, Wednesday April 12.
Innisfail Senior Citizens Hall, Owen St, Innisfail, 5.30 to 7.30pm, Wednesday April 12
Port Douglas Community Hall, Thursday, 9.30 to 11.30am, Thursday April 13
Bob Katter, Robbie Katter Member for Mt Isa and Shane Knuth Member for Dalrymple will be in attendance.
A determined display of solidarity among a large number of Mareeba residents who want jobs at the local Steggles chicken factory was the outcome of a packed public meeting on Monday night.
More than 160 previous and prospective employees demanded they be employed in preference to the large number of 417 Holiday Visa and 457 Temporary Work (Skilled) workers employed at the factory.
Organised by the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union Assistant Secretary Ian McLauchlan and Mareeba AMIEU delegate Fred Brunjes the rally was addressed by the General Secretary of the Queensland Council of Unions, Ros McLennan.
Steggles, owned by Sydney company Baiada, was accused by workers of employing temporary visa workers in preference to locals.
Mr McLauchlan told the meeting that the large roll-up at the racecourse venue was ample proof Mareeba people wanted to work.
More than 50 potential employees lined up to fill out Steggles work application forms which would be handed to the company’s HR department at the Mareeba plant.
“We are fair dinkum, we want to work but local people who hand in applications at the security gate say the forms never make it to the office,” Mr McLauchlan claimed.
“Somehow they get lost between the gate and the HR department.”
The Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter said he has been long opposed to the 200,000 overseas workers arriving in Australia every year on 457 visas.
“‘They are taking our jobs and undermining our pay and conditions,” Mr Katter said, apologising for not attending, due to commitments in Parliament.
Addressing the Steggles situation, he asked: “Who will you take as a worker, the bloke overseas used to working for $5 a day and 60 hour week and has a deportation order at your discretion?; or would you take an Australian who you have to pay a fair days pay for a fair days work?”
Member for Cook Billy Gordon told the meeting he remembered the problems of getting a job when he was a young man growing up in the Mareeba area.
“I picked mangoes at local farms and did other farm jobs years ago working around the area and being a young Blackfella in those days it was hard to get work when I was just out of school,” Mr Gordon said.
“It inspires me at the turnout here tonight with people standing up for families.
“There is 25 per cent youth unemployment here and it irks me there are companies out there not prepared to do the right thing by the community.”
Mr McLauchlan said Steggles job application forms were available at Mr Gordon’s office and urged applicants to fill them out then hand them to AMIEU delegate Fred Brunjes.
Mareeba Shire Council had been invited to the meeting, but Mr McLauchlan said he was unaware of any representatives in attendance.
He said Baiada senior management had agreed to meet with the union in Brisbane on Thursday to sort out the issues.