The Shire of Halls Creek will need to convince the State Government, to succeed in its push to seal the entire 1000km Tanami Road.
Despite the backing of the Northern Territory Government, Transport Minister Troy Buswell indicated the $3 billion project was not on the WA’s Government’s immediate priority list.
“I appreciate the council’s view and we will continue to work with them, but it is not on our short to medium-term agenda,” he said.
The Shire, which manages the 300km of the road on the WA side of the border, recently formed a Tanami Action Group to campaign for the road-sealing.
Another 700km of the road is in the Northern Territory, with its State applying to Infrastructure Australia to seal a section of road.
NT Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adam Giles said the Territory Government supported further development of the Tanami, which he said serviced the mining, pastoral and tourist industries.
It also provides community access to about 3500 people who live in communities on the NT side.
“Upgrading the Tanami Road will … have both economic and social benefits to the NT and Western Australia,” he said. “There are great opportunities for partnerships between the Territory and State jurisdictions and local government to build partnerships to build economic infrastructure that will further develop northern Australia as the gateway to Asia.”
But to open up the road as a freight corridor, which could shave hundreds of kilometres off the journey from South Australia to the East Kimberley, the entire road would need to be sealed fully.
Shire of Halls Creek economic development officer Lara Wilde said opening up the road would have massive economic and social benefits for the East Kimberley.
As well as reducing freight costs to Kununurra and Halls Creek, she said the road would provide Aboriginal communities along the road with access to essential services.
“It impacts on the community itself because it is a massive effort to get to Halls Creek to do some shopping or to get to health services,” she said.
“A lot of government agencies don’t give them the same service they would other towns because it is so hard to get people out there.”
Miss Wilde said a public forum would be held on Friday for the community to share ideas on how to ensure the project does not lose momentum.
“We’re really committed that it doesn’t fall by the wayside again, that we come up with an action plan that we can keep plodding away at until it happens,” she said.
Main Roads WA said it had reviewed an economic impact study by the Shire of Halls Creek.
The State roads agency said it was providing the local government with advice about the cost and feasibility of sealing the road, but it would be up to the Shire to secure funding for the project.