The continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2021 has created even more urgency behind my call, in last year’s QFI Leaders’ survey, for a concerted effort to improve connectivity within and beyond Queensland. Whilst COVID may have grounded most of us, both literally and figuratively, there can be no arguing that connectivity is critical to our state’s future.
Several forces have conspired to present Queensland with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fast-track our transport infrastructure and position the state for a better future. With no state or local government elections until 2024
and a deadline in the form of the 2032 Olympics, there is a window of opportunity for industry and government to work collaboratively to ensure the planning is in place, and the work commenced, to ensure Queensland can not only manage the demands of population and visitation growth, but, more importantly, improve the daily lives of the people of Queensland.
There are unique challenges in connecting Queenslanders. Seven in ten of us live in the south-east in a series of metropolises with their own business hubs that together form a population base similar to the single cities of Sydney and Melbourne but spread over significantly larger areas. The rest of us are dispersed in small towns and cities, and larger centres, over the vast expanse of one of the largest provincial areas in the world.
Our regions rely heavily on Brisbane Airport to connect business and communities, but whilst distance means air and road travel will likely long remain the primary fast transport option to connect regional centres with the rest of the country, the most pressing transport challenge, and opportunity, lies in South-East Queensland.
We must ensure public transport corridors link all the growing employment hubs of the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, Ipswich and Brisbane. And furthermore, we must ensure those links seamlessly connect with Brisbane Airport. The airport is the primary gateway to Queensland and its 24/7 operations and geographic location make it an international travel and trade focus for the whole of the State. This will require the leadership of local and state governments in partnership with us, the airport operator.
That partnership will also be essential to re-building the aviation network from BNE to the world. The massive disruption to the national and global aviation market has resulted in one of the most competitive environments in the industry’s history. If Queensland is to reach its considerable potential we must be dogged in restoring services lost during the pandemic, and ambitious in pursuing connections that grasp the opportunity we have to be the world’s best gateway to Australia.