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Roads to ruin

Wednesday, 8th December, 2010

Businesses in the Far West are facing ruin because the poor condition of the roads is keeping visitors away, according to Regional Development Australia (RDA).

RDA Far West said visitor numbers in some areas had fallen by as much as 90 per cent this year because heavy rainfall had kept hundreds of kilometres of unsealed roads closed. 

It said businesses in Tibooburra, Packsaddle and Cameron's Corner have been "significantly affected" by the dropoff in tourists, and wants the sealing of the Silver City and Cobb highways completed as a matter of urgency.

Chairman Kym Fuller said the problem had become a priority for RDA Far West as the incomplete works "threaten the region's economic sustainability".

"These communities rely on tourism for sustainability and without a constant flow of visitors to the region the future of these communities is grim," Mr Fuller said.

"The substantial downturn in visitors has left businesses in these communities little choice but to consider reducing staff or closing and leaving their community."

Almost 120km of the Silver City Highway between Broken Hill and Tibooburra remains unsealed, while 135km of the Cobb Highway is still unsealed.

The issue will be raised with several government ministers at next week's Regional Development Australia (RDA) and Catchment Management Authority (CMA) networks meeting.

Mr Fuller said while alternative methods for road sealing were being investigated, the issue of the incomplete works needed addressing immediatelyas the entire Far West was affected.

"Tourists who could be visiting centres such as Broken Hill, Menindee or Wilcannia via Cameron's Corner are being discouraged by this unsealedroad.

"We have the same issue with the Cobb Highway, which is a State highway that remains unsealed and hinders access for tourists travelling through to Victoria via Wilcannia and Ivanhoe.

"Unsealed roads and extreme weather conditions throughout the year make these communities inaccessible, and given that tourists spend long periods of time travelling, having safe, sealed and accessible roads across the Far West is vital."

Mr Fuller said any loss of employment or population could also lead to a reduction in government services such as hospitals and schools, as well as shortages in volunteers to continue social and community services.

The state of the Cobb Highway was also hindering the region's landholders and their ability to recover from a decade of drought.

"Drought, dust storms and floods have hit the region's pastoral industry hard over the last ten years," Mr Fuller said. 

"Now, pastoralists are finally able to re-stock but the incomplete sealing of the Cobb Highway has ade transporting goats, sheep and cattle difficult as the road conditions are unsuitable, particularly when wet."

Mr Fuller said with the State election due in March the opportunity existed to obtain a commitment from both major parties to seal the highways.

"RDA Far West NSW has spoken to pastoralists regarding the Cobb Highway, and has made representations to the Federal Minister for Farrer, Sussan Ley, and State Member for Murray-Darling, John Williams, on behalf of the Milparinka Heritage and Tourism Association affected by the downturn in visitors to the region."

 

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