Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has claimed ‘a victory for common sense’ with the Commonwealth’s decision to honour existing road funding commitments worth $30 million across the electorate.
Mr Chester said the outcomes of the Independent Strategic Review of the Infrastructure Investment Program as it related to specific projects in Gippsland had been generally positive but he remained concerned about the overall direction of the Albanese Government.
“We shouldn’t have had to fight so hard to retain funding for road safety projects which had been secured under the previous Coalition Government but we won the battle,” Mr Chester said.
“The Federal Department has confirmed several projects across Gippsland will proceed including the upgrades to the Mallacoota-Genoa Rd, bridge work on the Sale Alternative Route and the McEacharn St roundabout in Bairnsdale.
“This is good news for motorists after months of uncertainty and frustration. From the outset, I said the road safety works should be quarantined from the razor gang review which was set up to cut projects around Australia.
“We’ve wasted too much time and hopefully the work can start as soon as possible to deliver these safety improvements for the benefit of locals and visitors to our region.”
Mr Chester said he remained concerned about the future direction of the Federal Government’s Infrastructure Investment Program following the release of the review.
“I fear that road trauma will increase and local councils will pick up the bill for the Albanese Government’s failure to prioritise regional projects,” Mr Chester said.
“The Labor Party’s decision to abandon 80-20 funding splits for regional infrastructure projects, a lack of new funding for regional roads, and ignoring a recommendation to increase Roads to Recovery funding, are all evidence of a government that doesn’t value regional communities.
“The majority of cuts to the program have targeted well-supported regional projects, and there’s no commitment to reducing road trauma which has increased in regional areas over the past 18 months.
“In fact, the decision to abandon 80-20 funding splits will mean less road safety projects on regional highways because the State Labor Governments have never been interested in funding these works on a 50-50 basis.
“The previous Federal Coalition Government created the option of 80-20 funding splits for regional projects like the Traralgon-Sale duplication, to incentivise states to bring forward major highway upgrades in regional areas and reduce road trauma.
“The Roads of Strategic Importance program has been abandoned and the Minister has ignored the recommendation to increase funding for local councils under Roads to Recovery, saying she will have more to say about that later.
“Given it took her 200 days to finalise a so-called 90 day review, I don’t think local councillors should hold their breath for more money to spend on local roads from this Minister.”