A solution to Yarrabah transport problems is getting closer with the Australian and Queensland governments agreeing to work jointly on a water-based transport feasibility study between Yarrabah and Cairns.

Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt wrote to federal Minister Jenny Macklin earlier this year in his former capacity as Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Partnerships seeking funding for a feasibility study.

“Minister Macklin suggested a cost sharing arrangement between the Australian and Queensland governments and has committed officers from the Cairns Indigenous Coordination Centre (ICC) to progress discussions with Queensland government agency representatives,” Mr Pitt said.

“I have also written to Queensland Ministers Glen Elmes (Indigenous Affairs), Scott Emerson (Transport) and Jann Stuckey (Tourism).

“Mr Elmes has given a written commitment for the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs to work with the ICC and other relevant agencies including the Department of Transport and Main Roads.”

Mr Pitt said transport for residents of Yarrabah to and from Cairns has been particularly difficult following the Commonwealth Government’s removal of the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) and the subsidised shuttle bus service from the community.

“With no industry base in Yarrabah the limited transport options have had significant impacts on the ability of Yarrabah residents to obtain and hold down employment in Cairns and the surrounding region, Mr Pitt said.

“Yarrabah has a strong pool of skilled workers who only need to be matched with suitable employers in Cairns.

Mr Pitt said while improvements to the existing bus service is the only realistic short-term option to improve connectivity with the southern suburbs of Cairns and the CBD, the most logical long-term step would be for a ferry similar to the one that services Palm Island near Townsville.

“A water based transport option between Cairns and Yarrabah would help alleviate some of the transport related difficulties faced by the township,” he said.

“A ferry service could reduce transit time from 90 minutes to less than 30 minutes providing a much needed transportation link for jobs and educational opportunities.

“Furthermore, it has the potential to provide tourism opportunities for tourists seeking an Indigenous cultural experience. This, in turn, would help strengthen the local Yarrabah economy with the subsequent jobs growth.”

Of course any talk of a ferry service would first require the necessary infrastructure. A jetty would be a multi-million dollar proposition but it’s an option that governments of all levels will need to consider.

“An opportunity would be to make the development of the marine infrastructure a condition of private sector investment in resort or similar accommodation at Yarrabah, which has some of the best waterfrontage in Far North Queensland.”.

Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council Mayor Errol Neal said he believes it is the big ticket item that Yarrabah needs.

“This will stimulate growth, lift the local economy and lead to new business opportunities, employment and training for future generations,” Mr Neal said.

“I also believe that by breaking down the distance barrier between Yarrabah and Cairns there is the potential to attract tourism investors to the town.

“This will get Yarrabah moving forward in a big way and solve a lot of social issues that are impacting on our way of life.”