$750m in roads signed, sealed, delivered
A BITUMEN bonanza that will seal the equivalent of a new road from the Gold Coast to Rockhampton will be today unveiled under a whopping $730 million Federal Government Budget boost for northern Australia.
The unprecedented investment - which shows the Nationals have flexed their muscle in Budget wars - will cut hours of driving time for business, tourists and locals, plus stop the food-loaded B-doubles idling on highways every wet season.
The strategic corridors will seal or upgrade 700km of roads from east to west, plus those along the coast, a substantial proportion ruined by recent floods.
- Create the first sealed inland highway from Cairns to Melbourne by completing the Hann Highway. It will slash 12 hours off the drive from Mareeba to Melbourne, saving time and money for banana, avocado and other fruit and vegetable farmers.
- Cut costs for Queensland cattle producers. Sealing the Springsure to Tambo route will cut eight hours off a round trip and save almost $1400 in costs. The CSIRO estimates it will save Queensland's agriculture industry $4.6 million a year. This investment will also keep this important route open more often. Since 2010 the Springsure to Tambo Road has been closed 21 times.
- The investment will upgrade the iconic 3500km Savannah Way that connects Cairns to Broome, creating greater opportunities for tourists to see Georgetown, Normanton and Burketown, all places that have been hit hard by recent floods.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Michael McCormack said millions of dollars in invest would be split by providing $200 million for Townsville to Tennant Creek; $190 million for Yeppoon to Mount Isa; $190 million Cooktown to Weipa; $100 million for Townsville to Roma and $50 million for Cairns to the Northern Territory border.
"By making the freight system more efficient, local businesses will also have more money to invest in their operations, creating more jobs and providing a vital shot in the arm for the agriculture and mining sectors, which are so important to Central and North Queensland jobs and communities," Mr McCormack said.
Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan said the upgrades would provide an inland alternative to the Bruce Highway, offer safer roads for local residents, cut hours in driving time and thousands of dollars in costs for truck drivers, and bring millions of dollars in tourist spending to remote and regional communities.
"Roads are the arteries of lifeblood for these communities and better roads will get their communities pumping again," Senator Canavan said.
"We will build on our efforts to ensure that work on these roads goes to local communities, as we have done through the Beef Roads and Northern Australia Roads program.
"This will provide more jobs and more economic activity in regional towns.
"The funding also includes substantial investments in central Queensland and recognises the corridor of commerce that exists between the mines of Mount Isa and the beaches and islands of Yeppoon."
Assistant Minister for Roads and Transport Scott Buchholz said the announcement followed extensive consultation he held with key stakeholders in Queensland's north.
"The upgrade works will include road strengthening and widening, road sealing and realignment, and improvements to make them more resilient to the tropical wet season," Mr Buchholz said.
"Input from those who live across the north and who use these roads has been crucial in identifying the corridors and we will continue to consult with them to determine priority projects."