The project to install roadside and centre of the road wire rope barriers on the Princes Highway between Sale and Bairnsdale is going ahead despite local concerns being raised.
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull recently wrote to the Roads Minister requesting the project be put on hold after emergency services personnel and road users raised concerns.
“I wrote to the Minister and asked that given the concerns and lack of consultation, that he put the works on hold until some of these concerns have been addressed.
“In his response, the Minister advised that extensive consultation has taken place, but that is clearly not the case.
“The letter confirms the only consultation that took place prior to May this year, when the actual proposal was released, was done by social media in October 2016 when general feedback was sought. A Facebook post does not cut it I’m afraid.
“From my understanding, our community was never specifically asked about centre of the road wire rope barriers between Sale and Bairnsdale until it was formally announced earlier this year that they were going to be installed.
“This has continued a trend of the government deciding what it is going to do, then spending a lot of money on public sessions to tell the community what it has already decided it is doing and saying it has conducted an extensive public consultation.
“Public consultation is not getting feedback on what has already been decided, it is about asking what the community wants in the first place,” said Mr Bull, who added the only changes to come out of the so-called consultation were relatively minor alterations.
“It is clear the public consultation has been seriously flawed when you have members of the CFA, paramedics and police all saying the first they heard of it was the announcement it was going to happen. I also understand the shire has been approached with concerns by emergency services workers as well.
“I attended two of these consultations myself and raised these exact concerns and was told the project is going ahead and these sessions were only about seeing if any minor changes could be made to address any small concerns.”
Mr Bull said the project, which will see roadside and centre of the road wire rope barriers installed almost all the way along the highway between Sale and Bairnsdale, has been described by an experienced local emergency services member as being like a ‘tunnel without a roof’.
“An emergency services workshop was held as recently as the October 23 to work through the operational impacts of the safety works, but this should have been scheduled into the project plan right at the start, not as an afterthought one year on.
“I’m still waiting on an answer from the Minister in relation to what design changes have been made to accommodate the concerns of our emergency service workers, let alone what happens when we have a large harvester or the like having to travel on the road at a slow speed and taking up almost all the room between the side and centre wire ropes.
“I have also lodged a question about improvements to Bengworden Road which will become the detour of choice for road users seeking to avoid traffic congestion on the Princes Highway for the long period of installation”
Mr Bull said he is fully supportive of well thought out road safety improvements that will save lives and always welcomes investment in the region, but this investment should be preceded by gauging community views and asking us what we want rather than telling us.”
Monday, November 13, 2017
Caption: Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull says the Roads Minister Luke Donnellan is not listening to the locals about road safety.