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What the Papers Say

ROSI funds for Wheatbelt freight network

THE Federal Government has announced $70 million in funding for Wheatbelt roads.

The announcement was made in WA last month, by Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack, and will see the funding come from the government's Roads for Strategic Importance (ROSI) initiative and will be used to drive road safety and efficiency improvements for motorists and heavy vehicles using the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network (WSFN).

Mr McCormack said the new funding would go towards road upgrades that improve strategic connectivity and deliver productivity gains such as enhanced market access.

"I have had any number of deputations from our Nationals WA representatives and the local shire councils in WA in regard to this," Mr McCormack said.

"The contribution of the secondary freight network to the State and national economy is significant and we need to get freight moving more efficiently.

"Local governments have benefited from black spot funding and Roads to Recovery funding and I know that the ROSI has been a really welcomed initiative and the local and State governments want more of it.

"WA grain production has come into focus more significantly with the lack of harvest in the Eastern States due to drought last summer, and there is more grain being produced in WA, and farmers want it out the gate quicker and with access to more international markets there is going to be a greater emphasis on export opportunities.

"These are large shires we are talking about, there are not many people in them and they have a huge road network, but their economic output punches well above their weight and when it comes to mining and agriculture they need a reliable network to ensure they can keep doing that.

"This investment will also help create safer roads where tourists and other road uses can travel to and from regional centres sooner and safer."

Federal Member for O'Connor Rick Wilson said it was a fantastic announcement and the local governments involved would be delighted that the funding has been provided.

"(Durack MP) Melissa Price and I have worked very closely with this group, put them in touch with the right people in Canberra and given them the opportunity to advocate and sell a very good project which is critical for the movement of mostly grain freight and livestock through both of our electorates," Mr Wilson said.

"State governments over a period of time have withdrawn support for the rail network, and so this is critical investment in the transport infrastructure across these Wheatbelt shires.

"The State government needs to now work cooperatively with the local governments and honour the work the shires have done in preparing this road network program and I call on the State government to match the funding from the Commonwealth.

"Local government is a State government responsibility as are the roads outside of Highway 1.

"We are contributing $70m and we would like to see the State government step up and match that.

"Grain production and haulage is the lifeblood of Wheatbelt communities and it's critically important for people in those communities that the government invest in a safer, more efficient road network."

The Nationals WA leader Mia Davies said the funding would enhance productivity and driver safety across the WSFN.

"I can't praise enough the determination of the WSFN project group, comprising 42 local governments working together for the past three years to secure funding for a project of strategic importance for the agricultural sector," Ms Davies said.

"The Deputy Prime Minister has been very receptive to what the project group is trying to achieve with the secondary freight network and has backed that up by providing a significant sum of cash.

"The project group's long term goal is to secure funding support from the federal government of approximately $500 million for staged capital works over a 10 to 20-year time frame.

"This announcement is an important first step but it should not just be left to the Commonwealth to address the funding gap.

"I have raised the project in State Parliament on a number of occasions and I am calling on the McGowan Government to show its support for the WSFN by allocating funds to the project in May's State Budget."

In addition to the $70m for Wheatbelt roads, there has also been $76.5m allocated to WA to upgrade its component of the Outback Way.

The Outback Way links Laverton to Winton in Queensland, via Alice Springs and is 2720 kilometres long.

In total the highway would receive $160m for upgrades with the Northern Territory section receiving a further $50m and the Queensland section a further $33.5m.

"It is Australia's 'longest short-cut', and the Liberals and Nationals want to make sure it's a safer short-cut," Mr McCormack said.

"The Outback Way is a crucial east-west link across central Australia and is important for supporting freight transport and tourism, while connecting remote communities to critical services.

"That's why our investment will help with works such as sealing more sections and make it safer for truckies and tourists alike.

"This investment will reduce travel times, cut freight costs and closures for critical regional industries such as mining and tourism, and improve safety along the route."

Source - Farm Weekly

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