Article by: Hari Yellina
With WA’s budget stating that construction on closing the Tanami Road would finally begin, a vast area of the Australian desert might be economically revolutionized in decades to come. The Halls Creek Shire has long encouraged the Commonwealth and state governments to establish a highway out of the key outback road that connects the town with the NT border. Just over half of the $500 million price tag was given in the forward estimates in yesterday’s government budget, a payment shared by WA and the Commonwealth. The remaining would be funded beyond the forward estimates, according to the budget notes, and the project was estimated to take the past several years to complete due to the hard environment and remote location.
According to Malcolm Edwards, head of the Halls Creek Shire, it is at the head of the region’s infrastructure priority list. “It’s simply amazing. For many years, it has been my top priority project “he added. “It took a long time… I’ve gone to Canberra twice to lobby for it.” After obtaining environmental and heritage permissions, construction is set to begin. About 2,000 Aboriginal people live in the Tanami, which is surrounded by poverty and overcrowding. Turning the 314 km gravel road into a roadway, according to Cr Edwards, would allow mining and agriculture to prosper in the distant location.
“The pastoral stations become less viable as you travel further down the Tanami. Unallocated Crown Land has the capacity to carry 50,000 extra livestock. As a result, more employment is created “he remarked. “Ninety percent of Australia’s mines are within 10 kilometres of a motorway. “So, once the Tanami is completed, I’ve spoken with the miners down there, and they believe a bitumen road will make it much simpler to attract investors. “That many leases are available down there. It’ll immediately make it available for exploration.” If Cr Edwards’ vision comes true, Halls Creek will undoubtedly experience considerable growth pains.
The Tanami Road is severely damaged every wet season, and villages might be cut off for months at a time. Sealing the road, according to Curtin University supply chain specialist Elizabeth Jackson, benefits the whole region by giving another route for bringing commodities to the Kimberley. “The potential to enhance and broaden our transportation links in and out of this state to ensure a free and consistent flow of products is really fantastic news,” she said. “We’ve seen the devastating effects of COVID and natural disasters on our overland connections. These are some of the reasons why the Tanami Road is so critically needed.” Environs Martin Pritchard, the executive director of the Kimberley, was concerned about the impact of such a huge economic upheaval on an area that had remained largely undeveloped. “That area could take a beating,” he continued, “and what we should be doing is looking after these big tracts of undamaged vegetation.”