Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says the state and federal governments are putting lives at risk by failing to improve the natural disaster resilience of critical road corridors across the region.
Following the extended closure of Mallacoota-Genoa Rd due to landslips, Mr Chester accused both levels of government of ‘lacking urgency’ to deliver a $10 million upgrade that was announced in May 2021.
“I negotiated with the former Minister for Transport Michael McCormack to secure $10 million to improve safety and resilience on the Mallacoota-Genoa Rd after the Black Summer bushfires,” Mr Chester said.
“We met with community leaders in June 2021 and provided both levels of government with a list of road safety priorities.
“The road had not received any major upgrades for more than 20 years and was severely compromised during the fires, forcing a naval evacuation of locals and residents. The funding was intended to kick-start the process of building a better, safer and more resilient transport link between the highway and the coast for the benefit of everyone.
“But instead of moving quickly to design and deliver improvements, we’ve been stuck in the slow lane and no projects have actually started construction on the road.
“To make matters worse, the new Minister Catherine King wasted 200 days this year with a review and again, no progress was made.”
Mr Chester said the Mallacoota-Genoa Rd upgrade was meant to include shoulder sealing, sight line improvements, line marking, hazard removal and drainage improvements in consultation with the priorities agreed to by local residents.
“The Melbourne and Canberra bureaucrats have no regard for the transport challenges we face on a daily basis,” Mr Chester said.
“The failure to get work started after more than two years is symptomatic of the safety issues we are facing across Gippsland with several ‘one road in, one road out’ communities facing extra risks because of a lack of investment in the transport corridors.
“The Great Alpine Road is prone to closures during inclement weather along with several other key transport routes.
“The Federal Government has abandoned the Roads of Strategic Importance program which helped to fund corridor improvements and the State Government has cut regional roads spending over the past decade. Even when they get money, there is no urgency from the state to fix our roads.
“Gippslanders understand that extreme weather events can impact infrastructure but there’s not enough focus on boosting resilience and undertaking maintenance works to keep our communities connected and safe. Many of the road closure issues we deal with after storms and fires are entirely preventable if there was more funding provided in the regions, and lives are being put at risk due to a lack of access.
“Both levels of government are wasting billions of dollars to save a few minutes for commuters in Melbourne, when they could actually be saving lives with more investment in our regional arterial roads and highways.”