Whilst there has been investment into community facilities, the majority of Council’s essential infrastructure, like marine assets, were built decades ago, requiring significant upgrades to ensure basic community usage needs are met, and compliance with accessibility requirements. The 15 communities within the Torres Strait Regional Local Government Area are located across 14 separate islands, rendering the waterways as the Torres Strait’s national highways; marine movement and transport is therefore in the lifeblood of Torres Strait Islanders, and communities have a complete reliance on it.
Aside from the provision of materials needed for upgrading core on-ground facilities, such as community halls, Council offices and recreational/ sporting facilities, the majority of Council’s most fundamental services have a reliance on marine infrastructure, for example the regional electricity generation and drinking water desalinisation equipment is currently operated using diesel fuel. This is a critical item that is restricted to sea freight provision only. Council also provides and operationally manages airport infrastructure within each community for delivery of certain goods and passenger movement. The cost for air travel, within and out of the region, even with low fare schemes, can be largely unaffordable for lower socioeconomic communities.
Critical - Jetty structures are currently barricaded-off from use due to structural wear and immediate public safety concerns. All have less than 3 years useful life left if the structural wear issues can be immediately addressed.
Severe - Less than 3 years useful life left, however are only kept open due to unsustainable maintenance works which do not address the primary structural elements (piles, bearers, etc).
Moderate - Less than 5 years life remaining. Primary structure members (piles, bearers) showing signs of severe deterioration.
- Support for a feasibility study and new investment into the maintenance of marine infrastructure and vessel accessibility points (including channel dredging) to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and adequate provision for employment and industry (ie. tourism, art, fisheries, etc.) opportunities, thus facilitating the retainment and growth of key skills within our region.
- Support for urgent infrastructure upgrades needed to support inter-island ferry operations between Dauan (Mt. Cornwallis Is.) and Ugar (Stephen Is.), as travel is currently restricted to helicopter or small private vessel.
Cost of infrastructure reenewal:
A significant proportion of community infrastructure, particularly marine facilities are at risk of disrepair, or as shown in the 'Community marine infrastructure risk ratings' infographic above, are categorised as critical. The cost of maintaining infrastructure, including marine landings, in this remote region is astronomical compared to urban and regional centres. The snowball effect of chronic underfunding means that marine and other transport facilities are not being renewed and replaced in a timely manner to comply with asset maintenance and disability access upgrade requirements. Recent estimates put replacement costs for a typical jetty at approximately $6.3m, and additional investment would be required to meet full DDA compliance;
a. In addition to jetty structures; Poruma, Saibai, Masig and Erub communities require marine access such as channel and pocket dredging to facilitate barge and essential freight provision. Cost estimates for this program of work is $3.7m per community.
b. In addition to jetty structures; the barge ramps at Arkai and Boigu communities require urgent attention. Cost estimate $2.0m per community.
c. Mabuiag and Mer communities, despite having significant commercial fishing activities, have no jetty structures at all.