The Nationals WA have welcomed a $70 million commitment from the Federal Government to fund road improvements which will enhance productivity and driver safety across the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network (WSFN).
Leader Mia Davies praised the determination of the WSFN project group, comprising 42 local governments working together for the past three years to secure funding for a project of strategic importance for the agricultural and transport sectors.
Ms Davies joined the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in Bindoon today to mark the funding announcement.
“The Deputy PM, who is also the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, has been very receptive to what the project group is trying to achieve with the secondary freight network and has today backed that up by providing a significant sum of cash,” Ms Davies said.
The WSFN group’s long-term goal is to secure funding support of approximately $500 million for staged capital works over a 10 to 20-year time frame.
“Today’s announcement is an important first step but it should not just be left to the Commonwealth to address the funding gap,” Ms Davies said.
“I have raised the project in State Parliament on a number of occasions and I am today calling on the McGowan Government to show its support for the WSFN by allocating funds to the project in May’s State Budget.
“The Wheatbelt region produces 41 per cent of the State’s total gross value of agriculture production, worth $3.35 billion in 2016/17 alone. So this is a very important project for our State’s economy.
“Without this vital support from the Commonwealth, the WSFN working group and local governments involved would only be able to play at the edges of implementing the project.”
Cr Ricky Storer, Chair of the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network taskforce, said the roads identified for upgrades were essentially the weakest link in the network.
“They are no longer fit for purpose and restrict the size and type of vehicle that can be used to carry out the required transport task,” he said. “Further, the burden of managing these roads falls to local governments, and not necessarily in a fair or equitable way.
Cr Storer said the safety of road users was always the number one priority of the taskforce and today’s announcement would create a safer environment for all those travelling within the network.
The Nationals WA transport spokesperson Vince Catania said the McGowan Government was neglecting transport projects of significance to regional areas in favour of throwing more cash at Metronet.