With his sights firmly set on grabbing a fair share of the $39.7 million set aside in the 2014/15 NSW Budget to fix country roads, Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall convened a meeting in Parliament yesterday for Gwydir and Inverell Shire Mayors and General Managers to put their proposals forward to Roads and Freight Minister Duncan Gay.

Mr Marshall said he’d already had discussions with both councils about identifying key freight routes which required funding for upgrades to enhance the productivity and efficiency of industry in the region.

“Improving these critical roads will go a long way to increasing productivity in the region and it’s important we get on the front foot with these proposals and make a good case for a large slice of this funding pie when it becomes available,” Mr Marshall said.

“The State budget was very much about building and improving infrastructure in regional and rural areas and this new Fixing Country Roads fund is perfect for the roads both councils have in mind for upgrades.

“It’s extraordinary the quantity and value of agricultural produce coming out of the northern parts of both Gwydir and Inverell Shires. This underscores the importance of our region to the economy and why the improvement of key freight routes is a priority.”

During yesterday’s meeting both Councils were briefed by the Minister about the details and guidelines of the new Fixing Country Roads in NSW program, which will identify, prioritise and fund local projects to eliminate connectivity constraints in regional NSW, with the aim of improving freight productivity.

They were also provided details about the Federal Government’s new Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Programme (HVSPP).

“Both Gwydir and Inverell put forward their projects and supporting information for a number of key road upgrades collectively worth around $7 million,” Mr Marshall said.

“Both councils have been very proactive and following yesterday’s meeting are very well placed to submit applications under both programs and hopefully secure support.

“Gwydir and Inverell have already undertaken a significant amount of work reviewing the productivity gains that could be made by enhancing their Shire’s rural road freight network.

“A recent study has shown that around 30 per cent of the cost of producing a tonne of grain is taken up in freight.

“Improving the standard of these roads will pave the way for higher mass limits which in turn allows High Productivity Vehicles to service these routes, reducing the cost of freight and the frequency of heavy vehicles on our roads.”

The projects put forward to the Minister in Gwydir Shire included the upgrade of the North Star Road north of Warialda. North Star is a key grain collection point and stock transport route from Queensland into NSW.

In Inverell, key projects include the upgrade of the Warialda Road (Main Road 063 – Yetman to Warialda), rehabilitation of Bruxner Way (MR 462 – Bonshaw to Tenterfield Shire boundary) and improvement of Yetman Road (MR 187 – Wallangra to Graman).

“The meeting was very positive and the Minister commended both councils on the quality of their proposals and their desire to focus on productivity increases,” Mr Marshall said.

“There is a formal assessment process to go through but it was great to put our case to the Minister and have him aware of our needs.”

Mr Marshall said Gwydir and Inverell councils would shortly lodge formal expressions of interest for the new program and he would continue his efforts on behalf of both councils to secure financial support for the upgrades.

council put casePhoto from left: Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall, Gwydir Shire Mayor John Coulton, Gwydir Shire General Manager Max Eastcott,  Northern and Minister Duncan Gay.