Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says he’s optimistic the Bonang Highway will finally be fully sealed after positive discussions with his Federal Government colleagues.
Mr Chester has formally written to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack requesting $9 million to seal the final 12 kilometres of the highway as part of a bushfire recovery package.
“I’ve had a follow-up discussion this week and the Federal Government department has requested more information on the scope of the project, which is a positive sign that it’s being seriously considered,” Mr Chester said.
“Unfortunately the State Government, which owns the road, has refused to match our original promise of $2 million to get work started, so now I’m trying to get the Federal Government to fund the whole
In his submission, Mr Chester highlighted the importance of the Bonang Highway to East Gippslanders and visitors to the region.
“It is a significant arterial road linking an agricultural and timber producing region to the Princes Highway but 12 kilometres of the road remains unsealed,” Mr Chester said.
“The summer bushfires devastated large sections of bushland in the region and further highlighted the critical importance of this transport route in emergency situations.
“The road was severely compromised and remained closed for several weeks, forcing residents to undertake a hazardous detour and undermining the local economy.
“The Federal Government has committed to ‘building back better’ after the bushfires. Providing a more resilient transport corridor would deliver considerable social and economic benefits to one of the most remote communities in Victoria.”
Mr Chester stressed that sealing the road would create construction jobs and build on the region’s untapped tourism potential.
“The Bonang Highway is also highly regarded as a motorcycle touring route but the unsealed section has prevented further growth in the visitor economy,” Mr Chester said.
“Providing an alternative, fully-sealed route between Bombala and Orbost is expected to boost the visitor economy along the highway.”
The project has been identified by East Gippsland Shire Council and the Orbost Chamber of Commerce as one of the highest priority transport initiatives in East Gippsland.