Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester is supporting a community proposal to create a strategic fire break along the Princes Highway from Nowa Nowa to the New South Wales border.
The Orbost and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry has proposed extensive roadside clearing be undertaken along the 170 kilometre strip of the highway to create a fire break, improve safety and minimise transport disruptions after bushfires and storms.
Mr Chester said the highway’s month-long closure during the summer bushfires had taken a huge toll and the highway needed to be made more resilient.
“We lost jobs, lives were put at risk and our community was placed under additional pressure because the highway was closed for too long after the bushfires,” Mr Chester said.
“The Princes Highway is the critical transport artery of East Gippsland and a vital link from Gippsland to southern New South Wales and Canberra, and from East Gippsland to Melbourne.
“The highway was closed from late December until after the bushfire clean-up was undertaken and the route made safe in early February.
“That closure had a huge impact on towns, communities, businesses and families who rely on that stretch of the highway and the entire east coast transport industry.”
Mr Chester has welcomed the salvage of trees that were felled in the aftermath of the bushfires, but believes there needs to be a greater focus on the long-term resilience of the transport corridor.
“The highway is a crucial piece of transport infrastructure and it must be able to withstand the impact of events such as major bushfires,” Mr Chester said.
“Creating a fire break along the highway will make it safer for crews to respond to future incidents and get the road open again in a timely fashion.”
Mr Chester said the Princes Highway was owned and managed by the Victorian Government, so a project of this nature would require State Government approval.
“I want East Gippsland to build back better than it was before the fires,” Mr Chester said.
“To help support this proposal from the Orbost Chamber of Commerce, I have written to the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud to seek funding as part of Gippsland’s bushfire recovery.”