Six NT regional roads will receive upgrades worth more than $100 million in an initiative claimed by both Labor and the Coalition.
In August 2012, the then-Labor federal and NT governments announced a commitment of $106 million to repair the roads, which is finally being implemented with design work to begin this month.
The Roper and Buntine highways, and the Port Keats, Arnhem Link, Central Arnhem and Santa Teresa roads will all receive upgrades.
Chief Minister Adam Giles on Wednesday denied the announcement was a rehash of the previous government’s funding deal cut 18 months ago.
“It’s a totally new deal, I never even heard about their deal,” he told AAP. “We’ve been begging to get this work done; we wanted to do it last year (but) … we’ve been waiting for the money to be approved.”
The funding allocations and the roads identified are the same, and the planned works are very similar between the two plans, such as upgrading the gravel on the Arnhem Link Road, construction of a bridge over Rocky Bottom Creek on the Central Arnhem Road, and flood immunity improvement on Port Keats Road.
Giles said the funding ratio between the federal and NT governments was the same because it was calculated by a set model.
As for the similarity in upgrade plans, “well, they’re probably the roads that need it the most,” he said.
“What is old is certainly new again as far as the shallow thinkers of the Abbott and Giles governments are concerned,” said Federal Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon.
Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said improving roads servicing regional and remote communities will boost local economies, bring social benefits, and link remote indigenous communities to regional centres.
These roads are critical to maintaining continued export growth from the resource and primary industries of the NT, he said.
The repairs “underpin a whole plethora of other activity aimed at addressing disadvantage across the Aboriginal community,” said Joe Morrison, CEO of the Northern Land Council.
“It is unacceptable that large communities such as Wadeye, of over 2500 people, are cut off for lengthy periods of time each year – this funding will be vital in addressing this belated infrastructure requirement,” he said.
“Roads are extremely important to Aboriginal people for service delivery and access, as well as a fundamental tool for economic development.”