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Wednesday, 16 March 1966

Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) .- Mr. Speaker,I also express my approval at the recommendation of the Public Works Committee regarding the Top Springs to Wave Hill road. This road has often been referred to in the Northern Territory as the missing link in the Victoria River district. It is, of course, one of the most important roads in the south western portion of the Victoria River district serving a number of properties. It leads in from the Murranji Track to such properties as Camfield, Montejinnie, Wave Hill, Mount Sandford of Victoria River Downs, Inverway, Birrindudu and the desert blocks. All those properties are most important to the welfare of the Northern Territory and particularly with respect to keeping the meatworks at Katherine and Darwin in operation.

One of the puzzling features about this road is why it has taken the Public Works Committee so long to reach a conclusion in its deliberations. I think it is at least two years since this proposed work was referred to the Committee. Even though that may appear a long time, the most important thing is that the Committee has made a favourable recommendation for the construction of this road.

I am most pleased to see that the recommendation of the Committee supports the sealing of the road because in this particular area of Australia dirt roads just will not meet the requirements. The losses last year at the meatworks at Katherine are typical of what can happen if we do not provide sealed roads. I do not' know what the exact figures are in this respect but they are very significant. They relate not only to this road but also to the road from Katherine to Top Springs, via Willeroo, which leads into the Top SpringsWave Hill road.

The other point I mention about this road relates to the question as to where, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) stated, this road fits into the beef road priorities in the Northern Territory. There is no question that it is a very high priority road. The Government has given the green light to go ahead with the Katherine-Top Springs road via the Willeroo road and it is pretty significant that this road should be constructed without delay also. While that may be so, we must remember that there are other roads in the Northern Territory. One of the most important of these feeds from the Stuart Highway to Borroloola and the McArthur River. But if the design and construction mechanism is ready to go, it would seem that the Wave Hill road should have a very high priority. My only reservation about it is that the economicjustification for this road is based on two factors. One is an immediate increase in turnoff. This comprises the turnoff of aged cows and younger cattle. This turnoff is dominated by the large station at Wave Hill. This property, I assume, would use this road for the transport of store cattle across to Helen Springs and for the transport of cast for age cows at Manbulloo.

The only thing that worries me is that the justification for the road is based on the increased turnoff which is highly dependent on these properties carrying out programmes of improvement. Now, I believe that the companies in these areas will go ahead and carry out improvements. But I do think that before the Government gives the green light for the construction of some of these roads, it ought to be assured that the properties will implement high levels of improvement, because $2.2 million is a lot of money for a small number of properties.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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