Inspire : Public Works July Aug 2014
30 Public Works Professional July-August 2014 ROAD CONSTRUCTION Sometimes dubbed Australia's 'worst highway', the Tanami Road consists of 1077km of mostly r utted red dirt linking Alice Springs in the Northern Territory to Halls Creek in the Kimberley, northern Western Australia. Of that length, around 70 per cent remains unsealed -- all the way from Yuendumu, a small Aboriginal community on the NT side of the border, to Halls Creek. A group of stakeholders -- who united under the name the 'Tanami Action Group' in 2012 -- has been lobbying for years to have the entire cattle road sealed, arguing the move would open up the country's remote northwest to a world of opportunity. The benefts, they say, range from increased mining investment in the region, to helping close the gap for isolated indiginous communities and even assisting regional defence. For a long time, however, the question has been -- who will pay for it? At an estimated cost of anywhere between $100 million and $500 million, it certainly won't be the Shire of Halls Creek -- population roughly 3500 -- that foots the bill. Instead, in the absence of forthcoming state or federal support, it now seems the answer could lie in a well-executed public-private partnership, according to Shire of Halls Creek CEO Rodger Kerr-Newell. "The Shire has had [sealing the Tanami Road] on its agenda for the past 20 years," says Ker r-Newell. Back in 2000, the council -- which is responsible for grading and maintaining the WA side of the road -- engaged Sinclair Knight Mertz (SKM) to conduct an engineering review of the proposed project, but the movement lost momentum. Then, a few years later, the council started working more closely with the Kimberley Cattlement Association, the Central Kimberley Chamber of Commerce and other interested stakeholders to raise awareness of the issue. The group's argument has been relatively simple: the Tanami Road provides the shortest route by at least 1100km from the Red Centre to the Kimberley, with the existing sealed alternatives being either from Perth up to Broome via the Great Northern Highway, or via Katherine and Kununurra in the north. "From a heavy transport operator's perspective, 1100km is an awful lot of dollars for every trip," says Kerr-Newell. Having unsuccessfully lobbied state and federal government for funding support, the Tanami Action SEAL THE DEAL The fght to seal the iconic Tanami Road in remote northwest Australia has stepped up a notch -- and is now looking more feasible than ever before. BY GEMMA CHILTON For a long time, however, the question has been -- who will pay for it?
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