Sealing construction works has begun on the Western Australian section of Tanami Road, which links the Great Northern Highway near Halls Creek with the Northern Territory border.
Work on the first 41-kilometre section through the hills south of the Great Northern Highway is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.
Tanami Road is 1,016 kilometres long and mostly unsealed, extending through the Northern Territory to Alice Springs.
The road is notoriously difficult to drive, becoming rough and corrugated during the dry season, with long road closures during the wet season, cutting off access to the communities it services.
Sealing the road will deliver improved and safer access to remote Aboriginal communities and mine sites and a more resilient road freight network by providing an alternative route into northern Western Australia from the eastern states.
“The Albanese Labor Government recognises the importance of improving our country’s road freight network, and sealing the Tanami – as we committed to do at the election – will be critical to delivering greater resilience for this nationally significant east-west link,” says Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King.
“Sealing the road will also make it safer and more reliable for local communities, while the extended delivery time will ensure we create sustainable and long-term employment and training outcomes for local Aboriginal people,” says Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King.
The Australian and Western Australian governments have committed $542.8 million to complete the sealing of the 313-kilometre WA section of the road over the next ten years after design and development work started in 2020.
Main Roads Western Australia will directly manage the project on behalf of the Shire of Halls Creek, using local Kimberley businesses focusing on long-term Aboriginal engagement and employment.
“The Tanami is an important and significant connector road for people across the Kimberley, and to see sealing works begin on the Western Australian section is a major milestone,” says WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.
“We saw first-hand during the Kimberley floods the impact when road access is cut, so investing in new sealed road connections, like the Tanami, will be critical for our future resilience to severe weather,” says WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.
“We are committed to providing sustainable Aboriginal engagement throughout the project’s life, and look forward to continued consultation with the Traditional Owners and other local Aboriginal people to ensure this occurs,” says WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.
Four new local Aboriginal start-up businesses are engaged in the project, with two more to begin soon. Over $15 million in contracts have been awarded to Aboriginal businesses.
“Sealing this road will make Aboriginal communities it services less remote by providing safer and more flood resilient access,” says Federal Senator for Western Australia Glenn Sterle.
“The Tanami is a critical transport link for several remote Aboriginal communities in the East Kimberley, and sealing the road will make it safer and more reliable all year round,” says WA Kimberley MLA Divina D’Anna.
More than 65 per cent of the current workforce are Aboriginal, and two-thirds of those workers are local from the Shire of Halls Creek, with further initiatives planned to provide more opportunities for local residents to work on the project.
In the Northern Territory, 300 kilometres of the 703-kilometre section of road has already been sealed, with an additional 30 kilometres from Alice Springs due for completion mid-this year and a further 90 kilometres for completion during 2025.
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