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Alarm at flood damaged regional road network

Federal emergency funds call to cover arc of destruction through north and west of country


Western Australian and Northern Territory freight industry bodies have called for urgent federal funds to tackle road and related infrastructure damage from widespread floods.

Bridges and sealed and unsealed roads have borne the brunt of unrelenting heavy rains and resultant floods in a broad crescent between eastern NT and eastern WA.

Parts of the Pilbara, Goldfields-Esperance and Swan Valley have reportedly been declared disaster areas

NT Road Transport Association (NTRTA) president Michael Swart said trucking operators are feeling the financial impact of the wide spread work restrictions and yesterday it emerged that Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) has temporarily closed its Livingstone abattoir due to lack of stock as cattle stations are isolated.

“With so many Territory roads now closed this will have wider ramifications for the local economy,” Swart says.

“The flood damage may not have come about due to a cyclone or natural disaster but it is imperative that the Federal Government urgently directs funding relief to undertake urgent repairs of critical regional roads, which are the lifeblood of the Territory.”

NTRTA executive officer Louise Bilato says the sight of so many trucks parked up at the Daly Waters road house due to the temporary closure of the Stuart Highway “sent a shiver down the spine of most Territorians reliant as ever on road trains for their freight supplies. It also served to highlight the precarious balancing act between meeting freight demand and protecting our precious, water logged, road infrastructure.

“However, the bulk of our unsealed road network remains closed after an unprecedented, heavy and very persistent rainfall since late December.”

Bilato commends the “swift actions” taken by the Territory’s Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics in difficult circumstances to divert road funding and allow urgent flood repairs to get underway on critical roads.

“It’s unlikely any unsealed road could have withstood the heavy drenching and steady top up rainfalls experienced over the past six weeks but it is the sheer length of time that the Tanami road has now been closed, which is causing the greatest disruption for local communities and pastoralists as well as the Granites gold mine,” she says.

While much of the focus has been to the north of the country, eastern parts of WA have also been hit hard.

WARTA is calling on the federal government to provide immediate funding assistance to both the state and local governments to accelerate the repair of freight routes.

“Major damage to both sealed and gravel roads that form the arteries of WA’s freight logistics   distribution have been severely damaged in many places from the Kimberley to Esperance,” executive officer Cam Dumesny says.

“It is completely unrealistic for many regional and rural shires to fund the immediate repairs required.”

WARTA says it has previously been critical of successive federal governments for on-going trend of declining maintenance funding of the WA regional and rural freight routes that support 40 per cent of Australia’s export income.

“The Federal Government needs to respond immediately with funding assistance to enable repairs to start as soon as practical,” Dumesny says.

ATN is awaiting a response from federal infrastructure minister Darren Chester’s office.

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