War of words on seal­ing high­way sec­tion

Midwest Times - - TIMES NEWS - Ge­off Vi­vian

Lib­eral and La­bor mem­bers in the Mid West are at odds about the need to seal the Meekatharra to Wiluna sec­tion of the Gold­fields High­way in 2017-18.

Agri­cul­tural Re­gion mem­ber Dar­ren West said a state­ment is­sued by shadow agri­cul­ture min­is­ter Ian Blayney was “laugh­able”.

Mr Blayney said the for­mer Bar­nett Lib­eral-Na­tional gov­ern­ment, of which he was a mem­ber, would have sealed the road this fi­nan­cial year had it been re-elected and he called on La­bor to do so.

“In 1957 the peo­ple of Meekatharra and Wiluna were promised a sealed road to re­place the rail­way line, which was then closed,” Mr Blayney said. “Funds to do this have been re­moved by the McGowan Gov­ern­ment.”

Mr West, who is a mem­ber of the McGowan La­bor Gov­ern­ment, said this was yet an­other project the then-Bar­nett Lib­eral-Na­tional gov­ern­ment did not see as a pri­or­ity and de­liver when it had the op­por­tu­nity.

“The Bar­nett Lib­eral-Na­tional gov­ern­ment were the worst fi­nan­cial man­agers in WA his­tory, with State debt in­creas­ing from $3.6 bil­lion to al­most $40 bil­lion un­der their watch,” he said.

“WA La­bor has been very up­front about the need to fix the State’s fi­nances and have had to make some hard de­ci­sions.

“We will con­tinue to work with the stake­hold­ers to find a way for­ward with this project.”

Mr Blayney said the road’s strate­gic im­por­tance should not be un­der­stated as it con­nected the eastern Gold­fields to the Pil­bara.

“It will im­prove the trans­port of live­stock and con­nect the South­ern Ran­ge­lands to Mid West mar­kets and ports, and open the way for im­proved lo­cal ac­cess, freight and eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he said.

“This would be very ben­e­fi­cial to the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, the re­sources in­dus­tries, heavy trans­port and freight.”

Mr Blayney said seal­ing the road would also pro­vide a vi­tal con­nec­tion be­tween iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties.

“The so­cial ben­e­fits are as valu­able as the eco­nomic ad­van­tages — there is a high cost to so­cial iso­la­tion,” he said.

“It is 60 years since this road was first promised, it’s time for this obli­ga­tion to be met.”

Wiluna Shire has been con­tacted for com­ment.

Pic­ture: Anita Kirk­bright

Part of the Meekatharra to Wiluna sec­tion of the Gold­fields High­way.

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