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Delays in infrastructure spending risk lives on Gippsland roads warns Darren Chester

Darren Chester warns delays in infrastructure spending risk lives on local roads. Urges swift action for Gippsland projects' progress.

By news@gippsland - 24th July 2023 - Back to News

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has warned the federal government that lives could be lost on local roads while it wastes time with a review of infrastructure spending. Mr Chester has made a formal submission to the 90-day independent Strategic Review of the Infrastructure Investment Program which was announced by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King.

Gippsland MP Darren Chester has told the federal government's infrastructure review panel that projects are becoming more expensive and lives could be lost on local roads while the minister wastes time

Gippsland MP Darren Chester has told the federal government's infrastructure review panel that projects are becoming more expensive and lives could be lost on local roads while the minister wastes time

Funding delays in Gippsland

Mr Chester highlighted several Gippsland projects where funding had been secured from the previous federal government but work had failed to progress as a result of the state government's unwillingness to contribute just 20% of the costs.

"From a regional Victorian perspective I am acutely aware of the level of dysfunctionality and bureaucratic buck-passing which has become entrenched in the state-federal infrastructure program. Lives are being lost and much-needed productivity and connectivity gains are being sacrificed while bureaucrats fail to reach agreement on funding contributions and profiles for projects which have overwhelming community support," Mr Chester wrote in his submission.

Infrastructure funding concerns

Mr Chester also said, "At the same time, I have serious concerns about the minister's rhetoric in relation to this review which seems dismissive of smaller projects and the federal government's critical role in whole-of-corridor strategies to reduce road trauma. The new government has abandoned localism as it applies to identifying regional infrastructure priorities as reflected in its decision to abolish the Roads of Strategic Importance program and cease future funding for the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure program."

"The Minister has repeatedly indicated in her public commentary, that she is concerned that projects were announced by the former Coalition government without adequate funding allocations or a willing partner. I'm not sure how the adequate funding allocation argument can be applied for example to the $300 million Princes Highway corridor announcement for Victoria."

"It was a capped bucket of funding from which individual projects could be funded and it was my understanding, when the Coalition left government, that there was significant headroom in that program. The fact that we couldn't get the Victorian state government to accept its share of responsibility and provide 20% funding led to the previous Commonwealth Ministers agreeing to fund 100% of some important road safety initiatives," he said.

Urgency in Gippsland infrastructure

Mr Chester said there had been a complete lack of urgency from the state government to use funding that he had secured for projects stretching from Mallacoota to Lakes Entrance, Sale and Traralgon. "Gippsland has been severely disadvantaged by drought, bushfire, floods, the coronavirus pandemic and more recently the accelerated closure of local industries. The people in my community are fatigued. They shouldn't need to fight again to secure much needed funding for basic road safety projects and community infrastructure."

"If those infrastructure projects and programs, particularly in regional areas, involving intersection upgrades and highway safety improvements do not go ahead, people will be killed and injured on those roads. I fear this review process is simply putting at risk projects that I have been working on to improve infrastructure outcomes for our region for several years. Every project is getting more expensive while we wait for the outcomes of this review," Mr Chester told the review panel.

Pictures from Darren Chester MP website.


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