August 24, 2020
The Black Spot Program is an important sister program of the Roads to Recovery Program. I was disappointed, however, to learn that an application from Murrindindi Shire to fix the horrendous blackspot on the Black Spur Road was rejected in the most recent 2020-21 round of applications announced on 7 August.
That treacherous blackspot is still there, and it’s a disaster waiting to happen on a road that’s a feeder pathway to the magnificent regional tourism zone so close to Melbourne—a zone that Melburnians will be champing at the bit to drive the moment they’re released from the tough COVID conditions. While the Roads to Recovery and Black Spot programs may have been fit for purpose before the pandemic, I think it’s now high time that we did a lot more to get our local roads and infrastructure up to scratch, and to get our economy back on track, through smart stimulus that not only creates jobs but saves lives.
Last week I published a budget submission that I drafted with the nine local government areas in Indi, from Alpine to Wodonga, from Kinglake to Benalla and everywhere in between. That submission lists over $400 million in shovel-ready local road and infrastructure projects, projects that have been locked out of the Roads to Recovery Program since its inception and projects that may not always fit into the Black Spot Program but, nevertheless, are programs that we could fund. I’ll present that list to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasurer next week.
These projects would put hardworking Australian back in jobs almost overnight and build stronger, better local communities for us all to enjoy when we’re back open again, projects like the $7 million needed for the Benalla-Whitfield Road, which will see six kilometres of gravel upgraded and sealed. Not only would this project put local people straight back into local jobs but also it would support the growing tourism sector within the pristine King Valley region—a region that’s located in the foothills of the Alpine National Park, surrounded by mountains, stunning hiking trails and rolling vineyards with cellar doors aplenty. Cellar doors, vineyards, hiking paths—all waiting for people to flock back to them. Funding projects like this will not only protect our economy but also our livelihoods and safety. The King Valley is a very vulnerable area to bushfire, which sharpens the need to complete the sealing of that road. A project like this would secure local communities better accessibility within the valley, which is crucial during an emergency, especially with the next fire season right upon us.
Another outstanding opportunity is the $20 million required to enhance the road infrastructure at the Logic industrial estate outside of Wodonga. This estate was established 14 years ago and has ushered in more than $25 million in land sales, more than $900,000 per year in annual rates for the local council and over 615 jobs for local people. It was full of potential before and it’s full of potential again. The local council would be ready to proceed to construction within weeks of financial backing from the government, and the new vision would be a reality within just 12 months.
It’s time this government upped the ante and took a good look at the stimulus opportunities right under its nose. I will hand these and many other projects over to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasurer next week, and I implore them to take a really good look. These projects should not be destined to the wastepaper basket but should be front and centre as we look forward to building communities post the COVID restrictions.