I’m confident that we all understand that we are at the bottom of the economic cycle at the moment and that the upswing is still some way off in the future. But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be developing projects that the state government can invest in to diversify our economy and create short to medium term employment in the process.
One of the projects that the State Government had prioritised for development of the economy of Geraldton and the Midwest region was the Oakajee Port and Rail Project (OPR). The OPR project would have created a once in a lifetime investment opportunity for this region that would have a lasting economic impact regardless of future boom and bust cycles.
Some pretty large chunks of money were put aside for development for this project, but due to a number of on-going factors we were never able to get agreement between potential operators and port users. In fact, the Premier, Colin Barnett, has publicly said that this was one of the single biggest challenges that he has faced over the two terms of this government.
So where to now with the $338 million that was set aside? The money that the state government was to put towards the project has gone to other worthy projects across WA, and the dollar for dollar co-investment that the federal government was going to contribute has also disappeared.
There are certainly a good number of transport and road building projects that would underpin considerable employment in the short to medium term and the federal government needs to be playing a very large role in investing in these projects in this region.
Number One for my money is the widening and duplication of North West Coastal Highway through Geraldton between Utakarra Rd and Chapman Valley Rd roundabout. Not only does this stretch of the highway need to be ‘double lane’ the entire way, it also needs to be widened considerable between Eight St and Place Rd to allow for turning lances at the traffic lights. It also need to be straightened from Place Rd to Webberton Rd through some of the CSBP land.
The price tag on this project is expected to be approx.. $220 million.
This would also mean a much safer stretch of road for all road users, removing congestion and high risk driver behaviour immediately from three primary schools that are directly impacted – St John’s, Allendale and St Lawrence’s – allowing for better traffic flow at peak times in that area. Also not forgetting that most of the buses that service Geraldton schools utilise this stretch of highway as well. It will also make it much more truck friendly and we should also consider widening the outside lanes to give road-trains and smaller vehicles more confidence to share the road together.
Duplication of that stretch at Utakarra/Eastward Rd’s would also encourage development of the existing empty parcels of land like the old council depot site, while straightening the stretch though CSBP site will make it much more attractive for redevelopment.
Currently our population is at about 41,000 but we should be aiming to that increase considerably over the next few decades towards 100,000. While we will never see the level of congestion that Perth experiences daily, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t also be planning for the future expansion of Geraldton now.
Paul Brown MP
Member of Parliament
Candidate for the Seat of Geraldton