Curran: There will always be naysayers
UPDATE, 9.40am: GYMPIE Mayor Mick Curran has called for patience, despite concerns over the economic viability of the Mary Valley Rattler project.
While the debut of the revamped steam train has been pushed back until next year, Cr Curran said the emphasis had to be on "delivering a safe and sound infrastructure."
"I am quite obviously very disappointed with this latest news," Cr Curran said.
"The contractor identified further structural work that needed to be completed.
"This has put delivery back to late February and it has added extra cost.
"Council budgets for projects such as this, and throughout the financial year budgets are adjusted.
"This (Mary Valley Rattler) is a priority project for council and those adjustments will be made."
Cr Curran said the economic advantages of completing the project outweighed any short-term hurdles.
"It is a project that will bring upwards of 30,000 people per year (to the area)," he said.
"It offers a tourism point of difference.
"There continues to be overwhelming support in the community for this project to be delivered.
"There will always be naysayers as there were regarding the Aquatic and Recreation Centre, River Walk, Major Roads project and flood mitigation projects.
"The Rattler remains a great project for the future of the Gympie region's economy and is a tourism priority."
The chairman of the Rattler Rail Company, Ian McNicol, said while the overall package had been delayed, there were still auxiliary projects scheduled to be completed on time.
"It's is not holding us back," Mr McNicol said.
"There are still a range of projects that will continue and we won't be postponing any of those.
"We are just asking for some patience.
"All the way through, given the size of the project, we were aware there may have been delays."
WHO will foot the bill?
That is the question Gympie MP Tony Perrett has asked Parliament over concerns ratepayer money will be used to prop up the delayed Mary Valley Rattler project.
On the back of major infrastructure concerns, the Rattler will not run until late February or early March, instead of December as planned.
Mr Perrett is concerned about reports Gympie residents might have to chip in even more funds to the project after inspections revealed a need to replace a number of additional bridge components beyond what was listed in the original specifications.
The cost of the additional work, combined with lost tourism revenue over Christmas is set to cost in the millions.
"After ratepayers were told in August that it had blown out by an additional $1.69 million, I now have further concerns that even more funds will be needed, meaning council would have to cut other budgeted projects or raise additional funds," Mr Perrett said.
"This is on top of council imposing a $65 Economic Development levy despite some councillors claiming there has been a lack of good governance and due process in its introduction," Mr Perrett said.
"Gympie residents are struggling and they cannot cough up any more funds.
"Add to that the weekly reports about dissatisfaction with the project's employment processes, promises, and conditions, and the treatment of volunteers and supporters, the whole project is looking like it is unravelling.
"Queensland taxpayers need to know just what is going on with their $7.3million spend on the project.
"The latest news about the delay to the completion of the project by another four months and reports that the costs could now blow out to $20 million should be ringing alarm bells in Brisbane," Mr Perrett said.
"It is definitely ringing alarm bells in Gympie," he said.
Earlier this week, Mr Perrett asked Queensland's Deputy Premier, Jackie Trad questions on notice in relation to the government's willingness to conduct a full audit of the project and what probity checks have already been undertaken.
He is seeking assurances about the government's liability for the project.
"I also want to know when they were told there was no way that it could meet the completion target of November 30.
"The Queensland taxpayer originally was going to contribute 70% of the total cost of the project which was estimated to be $10.8 million.
"I have had serious concerns about proper checks when I learned that the government's funding was made within a three-day turnaround from the surprise announcement of conditional funding to saying it was in council's bank account.
"Queensland taxpayers' dollars should be treated better than that. They should be used cautiously and prudently," Mr Perrett said.