The Flinders and Etheridge shires are claiming the distinction of being the first in Australia to convert Northern Australia Roads Program dollars into bitumen.
By the end of 2017 the Flinders shire had completed 13 kilometres of sealing work on the Hann Highway between Hughenden and The Lynd, on the Boonderoo section, and the Etheridge shire had widened a section.
“They’re the first of the NARP projects to get the black stuff on the road,” Flinders shire mayor, Jane McNamara, said. “It’s thanks to a very proactive project team.”
The seals were among 19 high priority roads projects in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland identified in the $600m Developing Northern Australia White Paper.
It was announced on Monday that another of those projects, the 3.5km widening and sealing of a section of the Kennedy Development Road between Mount Garnet and The Lynd had been completed, at a cost of $3.32m.
Despite being on leave for the week, deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Barnaby Joyce, said its completion was a milestone for the flagship NARP funding program.
“This project demonstrates the Australian government is getting on with the job of developing the north,” he said. “The Australian and Queensland governments have worked with the Flinders and Etheridge Shire Councils to ensure there were employment and training opportunities for local indigenous workers, businesses and suppliers during the project.”
The federal government committed $2.66 million toward the upgrade and the Queensland government provided the remaining $660,000.
Queensland’s Transport Minister, Mark Bailey, said the project just completed and the ongoing 42km sealing projects between Hughenden and The Lynd would support 120 direct jobs over their lives.
Cr McNamara said the cooperative media release put out by both tiers of government was a pleasing indicator that state and federal colleagues were working together on delivering the road projects.
The federal government was contributing $42.66 million and the Queensland government $10.66 million to the Hughenden-Lynd projects.
Cr McNamara said it was now important to ensure funding continued to be delivered to ensure the rest of the important road link was completed within the next five years.
She and colleagues spent time in Canberra at the beginning of February promoting the Inland Queensland Roads Action Plan, or IQ-RAP, where they found there was an appetite among ministers for an all-weather road from the tip of Cape York to Melbourne.
“As far as we’re concerned, the Torrens Creek to Aramac Road forms part of that vision,” she said. “We’d like the government to assist us in getting the remainder of the money to finish sealing that and the Hann Highway within the next five years.”
She estimated that would take another $40m, from the NARP.