Shires and State butt heads over highway

Jon SolmudsonGeraldton Guardian
Local shires are requesting an upgrade to existing roads, while the State wants a brand new route.
Camera IconLocal shires are requesting an upgrade to existing roads, while the State wants a brand new route. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Shire councils have locked horns with the Mid West Development Commission and Main Roads over how to build a new major highway running from Dongara to Northampton.

The proposed highway will serve as a major route for heavy haulage road trains carrying cargo through the region, but it’s the section of highway north of Geraldton which has caused a stir.

Shire of Northampton chief executive Garry Keeffe said the plan supported by the MWDC and Main Roads — called option four — which would create a new inland highway from the Moonyoonooka-Yuna area to Northampton, would leave the many landholders in its path with “sterilised land”.

He said with the corridor likely to take up to 20 years to be fully built, property owners would suffer “extreme difficulty” developing or selling their land in that time, pointing out similar challenges faced by those with land around the proposed Oakajee Narngulu Infrastructure Corridor site.

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In addition, Mr Keeffe said a higher number of landowners would be affected by option four than the preferred option six, which the City of Greater Geraldton, the Shire of Irwin, the Shire of Northampton and the Shire of Chapman Valley have put their weight behind and which would effectively upgrade North West Coastal Highway into a dual carriageway capable of handling heavy haulers. “If they’re going to do option four they need to do it straight away,” he said.

“Option four also completely bypasses the proposed Oakajee Port site ... those are State Government assets — why would you choose not to service those assets?

“It just doesn’t make any sense.”

MWDC chairman Murray Criddle defended the inland route, saying it was a more efficient way to build a national highway which could handle heavy-haulage triple road trains.

He said to have a national highway going through the centre of Geraldton was “a bit silly”.

“I realise it will disturb some of the people out there, we have to strike while the iron is hot,” he said.

“If you drive a truck on (North West Coastal Highway), as I have many times, you’ll see it’s not the best road in the business.

“What I’m talking about is an opportunity to plan, fund and build a national highway that will solve all the problems at once, rather than do a short-term solution,” he said.

“You’ve only got one chance to spend this money so you have to spend it wisely.”

South of Geraldton, the alliance of councils is supporting a more coastal route than Main Roads, though Shire of Irwin president Ian West said he “might be happy” with Main Roads’ preferred route if it ensured option six was pursued north of Geraldton.

“We really want to show our solidarity with the other councils up north,” he said.

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