New infrastructure funding needs to fix poor quality roads in remote and regional areas, said Australian Trucking Association (ATA) Chair David Smith.
“Remote and regional communities and transport operators have been subject to poor quality roads for too long. They must not be overlooked,” Mr Smith said.
The Australian and state and territory governments have announced new and brought forward infrastructure funding in response to the economic impact of COVID-19.
“It’s vitally important that accelerated infrastructure funding addresses the long-term needs for remote and regional roads,” Mr Smith said.
The NT Road Transport Association, an ATA member, is a strong advocate for remote road upgrades, including upgrading routes such as Tanami Road and the pressing short-term need to upgrade dirt roads.
“The ATA backs NTRTA calls for dirt roads to be upgraded with more than a simple grade and actually include ripping up the corrugations and recompacting the road,” Mr Smith said.
“The unacceptable condition of the remote and regional roads is a serious safety issue,” he said.
The 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit found that Northern Australia faces distinct challenges and parts suffer from low quality infrastructure.
The audit also found that the economic prosperity of a community is linked to its access to markets.
“An investment in freight can unlock, and be a catalyst for, regional development,” Mr Smith said.
Executive Officer of the NT Road Transport Association Louise Bilato is calling on government to show support for North Australian infrastructure projects and ensure the needs of communities are properly met.
“70 per cent of the Northern Territory’s road networks are unsealed and some almost impassable,” Ms Bilato said.
“These roads can be extremely dangerous, yet are used by some of the most vulnerable Australians,” she said.
The ATA is urging governments to invest in improving the standard of key freight routes, seal additional routes, improve flood resilience and ensure future road safety funding includes remote roads.
“Areas of remote Australia must be properly recognised in funding decisions, ensuring communities receive the same opportunities and services as those of metropolitan and urban areas,” Mr Smith said.