Building the economy with infrastructure
By Strategic Partner Paul Arnold
The north west is blessed with one of the best roads in the country between Devonport and Burnie, thanks to the spoils of marginal electorates. However, don’t scratch too far, alas we have the worst of infrastructure as well.
Evening out the marginal seat expenditure pattern would be a little too ambitious, but this rolled gold solution in itself has been spectacular, by any measure. A quick look at the census journey statistics between Burnie and Devonport confirms that commuter use has increased exponentially since the road was completed.
Build it and we will use it.
It has also allowed better planning for essential services such as hospitals, and emergency services as travelling times have dropped dramatically.
However, other infrastructure is crumbling around our knees. Many municipal roads have been given B Double status, and roads built for vintage cars, horses and carts are now subject to 50 tonne payloads.
The asset failures of water and sewerage, and rail lines are now being matched by failures in road infrastructure and bridges. The poorer the council, the less capital upgrades they have or can make, and the buck doesn’t stop with them alone.
Any objective assessment of the Bass highway between Wynyard and Marrawah would scream out unfair. Tourists and travellers driving the Brittons Swamp, Togari Swamp and Mowbray Swamp sections should be issued with motion sickness tablets, such is the dreadful state of these roads.
They would be considered unsafe by most assessment criteria and little wonder the likes of Targa, rallies and vintage car events would not touch these roads due to the inherent dangers and likelihood of an airborne flying machine…literally.
Our economy is intrinsically linked to the state of our infrastructure, so governments have a perpetual challenge in matching economic and community need with infrastructure investment.
One of the greatest needs in the north west is the adequacy of roads to match the emerging potential of the economy. Sadly, there are not too many funding models that are aimed at the economic worth of a road, or its potential, and it results in significant issues for both the state and councils, where potential exists. The Bass Highway from Smithton is carrying a freight task of some $2 million in brand new economic wealth per day. Comparing this new wealth creation for Australia with the state of the roads and there is a major mismatch of expenditure.
The road is dangerous in places and poorly maintained under the current maintenance regime.
One can only hope that a positive cash flow budget will allow the state and commonwealth to make significant announcements of investment in coming weeks.
Ah infrastructure… can’t live with it, can’t live without it.