Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Grey Electorate: Road Conditions on the Birdsville Track
I have brought to the attention of this House on a couple of occasions the very big rains we have had in the north of the state and the complications that these have caused for the Birdsville Track and the punt that crosses the Cooper south of Mungerannie. I have just lately received a letter from Sharon Oldfield, of Cowrie Station. I would like to take the opportunity to read some of that letter onto the record:
Over the past 10months the far north region of South Australia has received excellent rainfalls. While these rains have been beneficial they have created major damage to the regional road networks. The decreasing road budget, for this Area, over the last several years has prevented ongoing & continual road upkeep. At best ‘touch up’ maintenance is all that has been carried out. The road and any water crossings have been allowed to deteriorate to the point that they now are unable to shed water from the road. The minimal and piecemeal ‘repairs’ have in fact added to its deterioration. The road condition supports our view (and anecdotal comments by Dept of Transport staff) that the S.A Govt has neither the political will nor finances to undertake major repairs and an appropriate maintenance program on this road
The condition of this major Transport Corridor is a national disgrace. We now have families with small children going without fresh food for up to 8 weeks. Pastoral Companies are unable to trade and sell cattle. Businesses are incurring additional major costs and delays
The second major issue affecting transport and life in the region presently is the Cooper Creek. The Cooper crossed the Birdsville Track on the 1st June this year closing the road for an indefinite period to traffic. The government solution to provide an almost 50year old punt is inadequate in today’s world. Due to it size limitations it prohibits livestock transport and therefore trade options, limits the economic delivery of fuel and supplies to local businesses, service providers & provides inefficient passenger/visitor movement and prohibits transporting camper trailers and caravans. Despite Transport Minister Conlon committing to providing livestock yards on both sides of the Cooper and basic ablution facilities for passengers, even these basic facilities have not yet occurred.
The Diamantina Shire Council has offered assistance on two occasions; these offers have not been taken up. An interstate Tourist Operator has also offered financial assistance towards operational costs. This indicates that others share our concerns. An increased awareness of this issue is spreading to other states. Pastoralists, business and the wider community are becoming increasingly angry and concerned that no one is listening: or cares about the adverse economic and social impacts that they now face In effect after 8 years of drought their economic drought continues through Govt indifference to the appalling lack of infrastructure in this remote region
Earlier in the year we saw Governments take swift and appropriate action to assist and address concerns for pastoralists and communities as these outback floods passed through Queensland.
These flood waters have moved ‘downstream’, and have and are now, creating similar problems and hardships for residents in this area Yet not a politician in an Akubra has been sighted—no flood relief funds or work—no fuel or freight assistance—no major works to repair damaged roads—no plan to undertake work to mitigate future damage. If ever there was a region of Australia that has been ignored and marginalised, this is it!
Public interest & visitor traffic due to the filling of Lake Eyre and the Cooper Creek over the last two years has increased. This has added to the pressure on the roads that have not been constructed to sustain such large traffic volumes. Rains have lead to frequent road closures and large numbers of people repeatedly being stranded on the three major roads (Birdsville, Oodnadatta & Strzelecki Tracks).
I will discontinue that letter there owing to time constraints except to say the letter goes on to highlight the problems again. Just in my own defence I might say that I have been up the Birdsville Track on two occasions in that period and I did have my akubra on.