Media Release - Save our Highway

Published on Thursday, 5 October 2023 at 12:53:20 PM


2 October 2023

Media Release

Save Our Highway

A plea to our State and Federal politicians from the communities of Meekatharra and Wiluna, the mining and transport industries and the tourism sector has been ignored. The Goldfields Hwy section from Wiluna to Meekatharra remains mostly unsealed and unsafe. It is the only highway section in WA, and probably Australia that is still mainly gravel and unsealed.

The Shire’s of Meekatharra and Wiluna received formal written advice from the Standing Committee on Environment and Public Affairs regarding the outcome of Petition Number 080 following the presentation of the final Petition to the WA Parliament Legislative Council by the Shire’s of Meekatharra and Wiluna in early March this year. The written advice is extremely disappointing to say the least, where the Committee has decided not to conduct any further inquiries into the matters raised in the petition. This decision appears to be solely based on the grounds of the submissions made by the Minister for Transport; Planning and Ports, the Hon Rita Saffioti MLA and the Minister for Training; Water and Youth the Hon Simone McGurk MLA, where the Committee advice states “that the issues are being adequately dealt with by the relevant authorities”. Anyone who travels on the Goldfields Highway unsealed 124 kms would seriously question this assertion? It quite clearly also appears that the submissions made by both Ministers were the only submissions considered by the Committee in reaching their decision, as both the Shire’s of Meekatharra and Wiluna were not requested to provide any further information and/or
comment to further support their submission.

Of particular interest is the admission by the Minister for Transport; Planning and Ports, the Hon Rita Saffioti MLA in her submission that she “recognizes the increased use of the road by heavy vehicles due to increased mining activity and the impact this increased use is having on the unsealed section of the road network”. In doing so, she also acknowledges that “the condition of the unsealed section of the road is rapidly deteriorating due to this increased heavy vehicle usage”. Is this statement and admission not enough to highlight the urgency of the matter? In their submissions, both Ministers have also confirmed a key objective of the funding allocated to date has been to create and sustain employment and training opportunities for local Indigenous people with the Minister for Transport stating that this approach will “be applied to the next 5 km west of Roslyn Hill scheduled for later this year”. This still leaves over one hundred kms to seal with no confirmation when this remaining section will be sealed!While the Shire’s of Meekatharra and Wiluna greatly support the concept promoted by both Minister’s to engage the local indigenous population that will provide employment and training opportunities, we question why this concept cannot be applied to sealing the entire 124 kms of the road network. This would surely provide long term employment, training security and sustainability, as opposed to only providing short term employment and training opportunities in approx. 5 km increments? Sealing of the entire remaining section of the road network would provide approximately 12 to 18 months of meaningful and continual engagement as opposed to short term projects of only 10 to 12 weeks.

The railway between Wiluna and Meekatharra was closed in 1958 and the communities were promised then that the road link would be sealed - some 65 years ago! Maintenance grading continues at a cost of approximately $30k p/day that equates to approx. $600k p/month (or $6m a year) in comparison to sealing the entire road at approximately $90m. Given the maintenance grading has been undertaken for approximately 40 years, the total cost to date (and counting!) for maintenance grading far exceeds the cost of sealing the road. Funding to seal the entire unsealed section of the highway was withdrawn in 2017 breaking another promised commitment. Despite several attempts and pleas to the State and Federal Ministers by the Shire’s of Wiluna and Meekatharra, the Goldfields Highway that begins at Kambalda and ends at the junction of the Great Northern Hwy just north of the town of Meekatharra, remains the only State Highway in WA unsealed. It is a major transport and tourism route as well as providing an important link for regional community commuters.

Both Shire Presidents of Meekatharra and Wiluna will therefore ask the question ‘why the project cannot be entirely completed that would surely provide more benefits to the local indigenous community, as well as the tourism, mining and freight industry alike?’ The Shire Presidents of Meekatharra and Wiluna will continue to lobby and explore alternative options for the complete sealing of the remaining 124 km of unsealed road between Wiluna and Meekatharra. The condition of the unsealed road continues to deteriorate with vehicle accidents also an unfortunate regular occurrence.

                                               Cr Harvey Nichols                                               Cr Peter Grundy
                                               Shire President                                                   Shire President
                                               Shire of Meekatharra                                          Shire of Wiluna

Contact:  Kelvin Matthews Chief Executive Officer - Meekatharra 0417 989076

  Gary Gaffney Chief Executive Officer - Wiluna 0417141877

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