The Black Spot Program is vitally important in any electorate, supporting many much-needed upgrades to our local roads. My electorate of Indi is no exception to that. In recent funding rounds we have seen three projects funded under the Black Spot Program: a new flashing warning sign and intersection signage at Lake Road and the Murray Valley Highway near Old Tallangatta; new safety barriers and guide posts, as well as sealed shoulders on the stretch of Lake Road near Bethanga between the Murray River Road to the north and the Kurrajong Gap Road to the south; and new guide posts, curve warning signs and new markings along the Skyline Road near Eildon between Taylor Bay Road and Fraser Park Road.
Since I was elected, Indi has done very well to secure over $65 million for much-needed upgrades to our local roads. This includes $5 million for the Great River Road, another $5 million for the Dargo High Plains Road through the bushfire recovery program, $17 million through the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, and $29 million through the Roads to Recovery Program. There are many party politicians on both sides who would say you could only deliver for your electorate if you’re a member of a major party. The fact Indi has seen an extraordinary level of investment in our roads under an Independent puts paid to that idea. We can and do deliver. Importantly, on an area as vital as road safety we are seeing great investment.
It is true that despite this enormous level of investment there is still substantial need in Indi for upgrades to our roads. On 21 October 2019, almost two years ago to the day, I stood to speak about an almost identical motion to this in the exact same chamber we are in today. At that time, two years ago, I spoke about the fact that the Black Spur section of the Maroondah Highway, despite a long and distressing history of both fatal and other serious car crashes, is still struggling to attract the safety upgrades it needs.
Maroondah Highway is the only direct major road from the Yarra Valley town of Healesville, up towards Narbethong and through to Buxton or across to Marysville. It then goes north to Taggerty. From there it heads on to Alexandra, while another arterial road branches from it at Taggerty to carry traffic to and from Eildon.
The highway is critical for business and tourism between Murrindindi communities and Melbourne’s east. It’s also a spectacular drive, described to me as the range’s version of the Great Ocean Road.
But the Black Spur remains a serious challenge for people and communities on the highway because, for much of its winding length of about 10 kilometres, it’s impossible and illegal to overtake. It’s a road that needs better signage, more slow vehicle turn-outs, better sealing, bicycle lanes and active management of old roadside trees, because the road passes through a wonderful forest of ancient mountain ash.
Two years ago, I spoke about how, when trees fall during storms, the road is often closed for hours or days. And, in the middle of June 2021, just a few months ago, a big storm ripped through, and this is exactly what happened. Fifty trees were felled, there was substantial landslide activity, and the road was closed for days. The community has been calling for upgrades to the Black Spur road for 20 years now, and it’s time the government listened.
Let’s make this road, this stretch of road, this important road, as safe as it is iconic. The people and communities of Murrindindi want a safe and reliable highway. The Black Spot Program can help to deliver one, and I’m calling on the government to step up with the funding and finally fix this problem.
The member for Riverina spoke a spoke a few moments ago about the importance of road safety. I want to add to his comments. It’s crucial that we make sure we do everything in this place to eliminate avoidable accidents.
More than 30 years ago, I worked in the emergency department at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, and I saw with my own eyes the devastation of a road toll which, in those days, was over 1,000 people. We’ve come a long way since then—seatbelts, driver education, drink driving laws, but also better roads.
So I really commend any government in this place to maintain the funding on the Black Spot Program and to address issues such as the Black Spur in Murrindindi, which already has claimed many lives. I don’t want to see another life lost there. I call on the government to fund that road and fix that problem once and for all.