Jun 6, 2024 | Latest News, News

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Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says Mallacoota residents are ‘sick of excuses’ and just want the State Government to ‘fix the road’ after more delays in a planned $10 million program of works.

Mr Chester said he was ‘alarmed and disappointed’ to read the latest advice from Regional Roads Victoria (RRV) that the final program of works would not be confirmed until later this year, despite the money being promised by the former Coalition Government in May 2021.

“In the aftermath of the Black Summer bushfires, I successfully made the case to the former Federal Government that we need to improve the resilience of the only access road to the Mallacoota township, which was severely impacted by the natural disaster,” Mr Chester said.

“The road surface is poor, the corridor is too narrow, falling trees and landslips can block access for an extended period, and very little capital funding has been provided to upgrade this State Government-owned asset for the past 20 years.

“Given the Melbourne-focused State Labor Government had refused to invest in the road, I submitted a plan to the Federal Government that would improve safety, increase the resilience of the road in future disasters, and boost the visitor economy.

“It had been identified by the community as one of the highest priorities after the bushfires, and we were able to secure a $10 million funding commitment in the 2021 Federal Budget.

“Three years later, and we are still waiting for work to start, despite the fact we were told construction would begin in April 2024. State Minister Melissa Horne and Federal Minister Catherine King need to kick-start their departments and get the work done.

“It’s farcical that it takes so long to design and implement road safety improvements in our state, and the complete lack of urgency is a disgrace. Even when they don’t have to spend a cent of their own money, the State Government is slow to act in East Gippsland.”

According to the RRV website information, final approvals still haven’t been granted for the proposed roadworks, which will include realignment of the hairpin bend at Coolwater Creek, widening of curves near Horn Bay, and safety improvements near Double Creek.

“These upgrades are proposed only, and final assessments are now required to identify the environmental approvals and permits required,” the website says.

“This is due to the unique environmental area surrounding the road both in the road reserve and in the Croajingolong National Park. The outcome from these assessments will help determine the final program of works.

“Appropriate environmental offsets will also need to be sourced to meet the conditions of any required approvals and permits.

“Getting the project right to improve the safety and resilience of the road whilst minimising environmental impact is important and takes time. However, we understand how important Mallacoota-Genoa Road is to the local community and we are committed to getting works happening on the ground as soon as possible.”

Mr Chester said it was extraordinary that the township most adversely impacted by the bushfires was waiting so long for promised roadworks to be delivered.

“With cost escalations over the past three years, the promised $10 million will deliver less than expected, and the community has waited too long,” Mr Chester said.

“Everyone appreciates the environmental values of our region, but we are talking about an existing road reserve surrounded by thousands of hectares of native bushland.

“The safety of locals and visitors needs to take precedence, and we shouldn’t be wasting money intended for roadworks to comply with more red and green tape.

“Road safety improvements would enhance the resilience of this key access route in emergency situations, as well as deliver economic benefits through the visitor economy, and it shouldn’t take so long to get the project started.”

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