Welcome to this week’s editorial.
Terrific news that the Dignams Creek Bridge will be open for the peak summer traffic about to descend on the South Coast. Long before the popularist “Fix it Now” campaign the Member for Bega had been solidly lobbying for funds to improve the safety of the Princes Highway knowing full well that it had sections that were more than BLACK SPOTS. There have always been budgetary constraints at a State level and the focus has been on the Pacific Highway for three decades or more and to remove the carnage that that road caused year in, year out. That effort, assisted by Federal funding has now made the Pacific Highway a far safer route, and as one of Australia’s primary transport routes bought improvement to life and economy. It was a reality that the Princes Highway had to be patient. And now its time has come. The highway has now come under the focus of the State Government who are able to take guidance from the RMS to understand where the critical areas are and how to best prioritise these with supporting commitments to design and construction. The recent announcements of $150m to the Princes Highway in the first leg out of Sydney through the Shoalhaven has been widely welcomed. Not just because the funding has been directed to safety improvements relating to identified Black Spots but also from the perspective of improved transport links that enables economic expansion into the region. While it engages the community to see Roads Ministers pouring over front pages of the media with gruesome headlines the machinations of what is actually required from a whole of network perspective needs to have a big-picture perspective to ensure that all the players are at the table. Councillor Phil Constable of Eurobodalla Council gave a directive to staff to call a meeting of State, Federal, Local Government, RMS, Council and all the relevant Ministers and executives to a round table with the sole focus being what can be done to the Princes Highway over the next 50 years. He, like Andrew Constance, understood that in order to gain any momentum to see the Princes Highway supported, would require a plan to be devised that would logically set out a strategy to improve the network as a whole and open up the region economically while delivering a safer network to road users. Unfortunately the council staff decided, for reasons unknown, to not organise this meeting and as a result the last two years has seen key players doing great things in isolation of each other. In terms of pecking order there is an overarching group called the South East Area Transport Strategy that has representatives from all levels to look at the Highway 1 network from Wollongong to Adelaide. Presently there are calls by a government consultant to look at that strategy specifically in the South East of NSW that includes Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla and Bega. All of that information is handed back to Roads and Maritime to crunch with their own asset management systems of road renewals and accident statistics married with traffic counts to establish priorities. It is their final report based on logic, facts and non-political recommendations that the Ministers consider when determining the best Bang for Buck and not emotive headlines in local newspapers. We are now arriving at the big round table with the Federal Government being invited to play its role. Our local councillors, local members, local police, RMS and SEATS, who have long recognised this day must come are all to be commended. Until next Lei