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Thursday, 8 February 2007
Page: 8

Mr NEVILLE (12:50 PM) —We all appreciate the importance of good road networks in regional Australia and I commend the government for its fresh approach in the funding of key road projects under the AusLink Strategic Regional Program. In recent months three rural shires in my electorate of Hinkler received total funding of $2.3 million under the program to help remedy specific problems with arterial roads through shires. One recipient was a consortium of four councils—Isis, Burnett, Kolan and Bundaberg, which successfully applied for $1 million to upgrade road networks in their areas.

The Bundaberg District Cane Deregulation Roads Program will cost $2 million. It will take that $2 million to achieve but will be worth every penny. Under the deregulation of the sugar industry, heavier vehicles are now using local roads. They are roads, I might add, which also take school buses. It is inevitable that there will be a great deterioration. This was really triggered by the moving of cane supplies from the cane rail system to roads as different farmers access different mills. The project will see councils contribute matching funds, and that will help improve road safety and cut maintenance costs by widening, strengthening and improving haulage routes to the mills in substitution for the cane rail lines. I commend these four councils for working together to tackle what is a major issue in the Bundaberg and Childers districts.

The second project saw us go to Cracow. Cracow is a small mining town whose mine has revived. The Deputy Prime Minister was there, in the presence of the Mayor of Eidsvold Shire, Pat Connolly, and the Mayor of the Banana Shire, Glen Churchill—who, I might add, is the new National Party candidate for the seat of Flynn. We went there to hear the announcement of the Eidsvold-Theodore Road upgrade. This will take a sealed road right to the boundary of the Eidsvold Shire and almost to Cracow, which is in the adjoining shire. The council now has the ability to seal almost 17 kilometres of the road which is in constant need of formation, grading and regravelling because of the constant rural and heavy traffic caused by the goldmine.

We heard first-hand from local residents about the massive problems that dust was causing. I did not realise at that time what damage dust can do as far as a kilometre inland from the roads. The constant waves of dust actually have a financial impact on farmers, and in these drought conditions even more so. I would like to pay tribute at this point to the former mayor of Eidsvold, Peter Webster. Peter told me once that he would see the road sealed from Mount Perry to Eidsvold and from Eidsvold to Cracow. Peter, through ill-health, had to retire recently, but he almost got his dream. It is great to see that this dream has now been achieved. As I said, I pay great tribute to him. He was a visionary when it came to these road funding programs.

The third important project in this AusLink strategic funding is a $1.4 million upgrade of the Monto to Kalpowar road. Kalpowar is a timber area between Monto and Gladstone. The Commonwealth contributed $700,000 and the shire will contribute another $700,000. That will seal 5.6 kilometres of a road which has been a constant thorn in the side of successive Monto shire councils—particularly the current council, led by Warren McLachlan. It will be of great benefit to the people of Monto and North Burnett because there are new mining ventures coming out of that area that will have regional impacts.

The AusLink Strategic Regional Program is a real and valuable tool in getting better roads into regional Australia. Already $96.9 million has been pledged to 29 projects. I commend the Deputy Prime Minister for his recent statement that he will be looking for more AusLink funding, perhaps in the range of $15 billion to $19 billion, and I hope the strategic fund will be part of that.