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Federal Government Bridges the Finke River

Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Transport and Regional Services
Leader of the National Party

13th May 2003

The Federal Government will fund a new high-level bridge over the Finke River in the Northern Territory, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson, said today.

The Deputy Prime Minister was announcing the Government's 2003-04 roads budget for the Northern Territory, which totals $46.5 million.

"The Northern Territory has distinctive transport challenges, due to its extreme weather and vast distances. We are maintaining our focus on upgrading the Territory's major roads and ensuring they can be used throughout the year," Mr Anderson said.

A new bridge over the Finke River

"The Federal Government will fund a new bridge over the Finke River, 130km south of Alice Springs, as part of our $17.3 million programme to replace flood-prone bridges on the Stuart Highway. The bridge will cost $6.3 million.

"This section of the Stuart Highway is the only road link between Alice Springs and South Australia and is critical for commercial, tourist and local traffic. It carries significant numbers of tourists via buses and independent vehicles. It is also part of the primary sealed route from Alice Springs to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

"The existing bridge was constructed in 1969 and has been submerged under floodwaters 13 times in the last 30 years. The most severe flood was in February 2000, when the bridge was submerged for about a week. It is not unknown for the bridge deck to be six metres under water.

"The construction of the new high level bridge and approaches will enable this section of the Stuart Highway to cope with a one in 50 year flood. The new bridge will also be able to carry heavier vehicles. The existing bridge has been identified as being substandard for the loads it is expected to carry.

"The Federal Government has already funded new high level bridges on the Stuart Highway over the Elizabeth, Edith and Hugh rivers. The new bridge over the Finke River will go a long way toward ensuring the Stuart Highway remains open regardless of extreme weather conditions and seasonal flooding.

"Tenders for the new bridge will be called within the month and construction should start by the end of June. It is expected that the bridge will open in early 2004.

Better Bridges on the Roper Highway

"The Government will contribute $1.7 million over the next two years toward upgrading ten bridges on the Roper Highway. The bridge upgrading programme will enable the highway to handle heavier cattle trucks, which will improve the pastoral industry's ability to move stock to market and improve access to Ngukurr. The highway carries 12,500 head of live cattle for export a year.

"The funding decision follows my announcement in November 2002 that the Roper Highway would be included in the Government's higher mass limit bridge upgrading programme.

"The bridges to be upgraded are: Salt Creek, Strangways Creek, Mayhew Creek, Sayle Creek, Packsaddle Creek, Fizzer Creek, Cheon Creek, Sherwin Creek, Hellsgate Creek and Sandy Creek.

Tiwi Islands forestry project

"The Government has offered a capped figure of $0.5 million toward the improvement of Tiwi Island roads under the RONI programme. The offer will facilitate the Tiwi Islands Forestry Project and is conditional on the Northern Territory Government, Sylvatech, and the Tiwi community reaching a final funding agreement on the full scope of the project.

"The Tiwi Islands Forestry project will harvest a plantation forest of Caribbean and Cyprus Pine. The project is expected to create over 200 full-time jobs and 150 seasonal part-time positions, and is a practical example of an active business partnership between Aboriginal landowners and a commercial corporation.

Victoria River Floodplain Study

"The Government will fund a $0.2 million study in 2003-04 to identify measures that will improve the flood immunity of the Victoria Highway.

"The Victoria Highway has experienced significant road closures in each of the last four wet seasons, as a result of the flooding of the Victoria River. The study will help determine the additional measures that can be taken to minimise the impact of flooding on this section of the National Highway.

"The Government has already called tenders for the study, and it is expected to be completed in 2004.

Saving Lives with the Black Spot Programme

"The Northern Territory will receive $0.7 million in 2003-04 under the National Black Spot Programme, which provides funding to improve dangerous accident locations on Australia's roads. The programme is estimated to prevent around 500 serious crashes a year nationally.

Maintaining local roads

"In 2003-04, the Government will invest $15.8 million in the Northern Territory's local roads, comprising $10.8 million in untied Local Road Grants and $5.0 million under the Roads to Recovery Programme.

"The $1.2 billion Roads to Recovery Programme is the largest funding injection into local roads by any Federal Government. So far, councils have listed about 10,000 projects for funding, with a strong emphasis on improving road safety.

"In 2002-03, we had to defer $100 million of spending under the programme nationally to meet our overall budgetary requirements. Local authorities will receive their full Roads to Recovery allocation in 2003-04, and will receive an extra $100 million nationally in 2004-05 to make up for the deferral," Mr Anderson said.

Media contact: Paul Chamberlin 02 62777680 / 0419 233989