Opposing Light Rail on the Sunshine Coast

On Sunday more than 4,500 residents in my electorate of Fisher gathered for a protest rally along the route of Sunshine Coast Council’s proposed light rail project. Led by dedicated local campaign groups Mass Transit Action Group and the Beach Matters Group, they held signs that said, ‘No light rail’, ‘Tell the council now’ and ‘Don’t make us the Gold Coast’. I could not agree more with the thousands of my community and like-minded residents that spoke up so very clearly on the weekend. I thank Tracey Goodwin-McDonald and Rachael Bermingham for their roles in mounting this important protest. I also thank my state colleagues Jarrod Bleijie and Fiona Simpson. I was very disappointed not to be there—unfortunately, I had to travel down here, and was on a plane at the time of the rally, otherwise I would have been there with them.

Unfortunately, Sunshine Coast Council has totally ignored the voices of the many residents in my community who rightly oppose this ill-considered idea. Yesterday, council voted in majority to send their mass transit options paper to the Queensland state government, recommending light rail as a high-scoring option for consideration. Council clearly do not care what our community thinks. They are determined to blindly progress this project, whatever the views of the people that they are supposed to represent. I am just as determined to oppose this.

No-one could deny that public transport on the Sunshine Coast is in a parlous state. Thanks to decades of neglect from successive Queensland Labor state governments, our bus service is woefully inadequate and our century-old single-track rail line does not come within 20 kilometres of the coast’s major population centres. However, in my view, and that of the many thousands of my constituents who rallied on Sunday, Sunshine Coast Council’s $1.5 billion proposal for light rail is absolutely the wrong answer.

One of council’s light rail proposals would run from Caloundra along Nicklin Way, through Kawana and along Alexandra Parade, finishing after 22 kilometres in the new Maroochydore city centre. That route continues to change throughout the years—now they’re talking about maybe having it from Kawana to Maroochydore. In any event, Nicklin Way and Alexandra Parade are already heavily congested roads, and light rail would remove a lane each way for traffic. Light rail would not significantly reduce the number of cars using these roads when our population is so heavily decentralised throughout the region, yet it would halve the network’s capacity to take cars. The consequences for our already heavily congested roads would, in my view, be disastrous.

Our community instead needs heavy rail on the CAMCOS corridor, and a significantly upgraded road and public transport network across the entire region which benefits all local residents. Servicing only a narrow strip of some 22 kilometres on one fixed light rail would do nothing for the vast bulk of Sunshine Coast residents. Most would be required to make the congested journey to drive to a light rail station in order to use it. Even those residents who lived along the rail would continue to require a car to reach the bulk of our community services and amenities, which are not located within walking distance of a proposed light rail station. Most importantly, light rail would also have disastrous consequences for the lifestyle along the Sunshine Coast’s famous coastal strip.

Our community is differentiated from others by its low density, natural coastline and family-friendly living. Council’s design for light rail includes proposals to significantly increase the permitted density of residences along the coastline between Caloundra and Maroochydore. This is expected to increase the population of this area, and my community is saying: ‘No, Mayor. No, Sunshine Coast Council. This is not what we want.’ Please listen to them.