Article – Tanami Road seal push gains traction

7 May 2015
Jacinta Bolsenbroek
Farm Weekly

A WA senator says it’s time the Tanami Road gets full traction to fulfill the development of the State’s Top End.

Tanami Road covers a 1014 kilometre long stretch from the Great Northern Highway just south of Halls Creek to the Stuart Highway near Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory.

Some Northern Territory sections have been or are about to be sealed, leaving about 790km unsealed.

The road, which is 311km long to the WA border, is a strategic transport link and services Aboriginal communities and the tourism, pastoral and mining industries.

But after a drive north last week, WA Liberal senator Dean Smith called for immediate action to seal the Tanami Road, saying the link between Halls Creek and Alice Springs is integral to the region’s development.

Mr Smith visited the Tanami Road and met with Shire of Halls Creek officials and the Tanami Action Group whilst driving from Kununurra to Broome.

“I am satisfied the time has come for a greater focus on the Tanami Road,” said Mr Smith, who is a member of the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia and the patron senator for Durack.

“My interest is to keep the focus on reducing supply chain costs for pastoralists and strengthening access to new and existing markets.

“The growing success of new agribusinesses in the Kimberley, underpinned by traditional pastoral activities, means road infrastructure is critical.

“Tanami Road is about access to the Kimberley from the south, and it is critically important to have a faster, cheaper access route from the far north to Australia’s domestic markets in the south east corner of the continent.”

Mr Smith said he would put pressure on the WA State and Federal governments to build a financial case to properly surface the road.

A fully sealed road would improve tourism access, provide a connector route for freight and offer the potential for agricultural development, increase mining opportunities and cut freight travel by hundreds of kilometres.

“I will be working with my Federal and State parliamentary colleagues to press this matter,” Mr Smith said.

“The in-principle argument to seal the road has been easily won; however it is time to focus on the financial and technical case, because at the end of the day it’s about dollars, and hundreds of millions are involved.”

Shire of Halls Creek chief executive officer Rodger Kerr-Newell said if the Northern Territory and WA governments sign off on the business case, seal works on Tanami Road could commence next financial year.

“We have gained a lot of support,” Mr Kerr-Newell said.

“This project is a priority for the Northern Territory and is gaining support in WA
“Premier (Colin Barnett) has interest in the Aboriginal aspects of up-skilling opportunities with the on-going maintenance of the road, the access to services and developing economic opportunity.

“It will open up the north for pastoralists, further markets and tourism for some of the untapped sections.”

Mr Kerr-Newell said once the business case was approved by the NT and WA governments it would go to Infrastructure Australia for assessment.

“They list projects as priorities and then it will go to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development,” he said.

Shire of Halls Creek economic development manager Matthew Hobson and Tanami Action Group chair Phillip Hams, Go Go station, told pastoralists about the sealing proposal at the Kimberley Cattlemen’s Association (KCA) meeting last week in Broome.

“We discussed the progress and it was very well received,” Mr Hams said.

“It is a multi-purpose road, it’s not just for the benefit of livestock.”
Mr Hams said with recent increased rainfall, sealing the road would be a good incentive to development the northern market.

“We could move heavier cattle down to the south eastern corridor markets, and also move lighter cattle north for fattening up in the feedlots,” he said.

“It would also benefit the Aboriginal communities, give 1200 people in those communities job opportunities, and it would create better access and tourism in that region.

“Mining and defence could also use the road to move from south to north.”

Courtesy of Farm Weekly

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