The long-awaited government blueprint for developing northern Australia has been unveiled … and it looks set to transform the grey nomad ‘playground’ in the years ahead.
The white paper outlines a bold vision for the north over the next two decades, and Canberra is poised to put its money where its mouth is.
About $600 million is to be spent on improving roads across the north, with major routes such as the Hann Highway and Flinders Highways earmarked for upgrades.
Queensland motoring body, RACQ, welcomed the news.
“We’ve been calling for improvements to our northern highways including the Bruce, the Flinders and the Barkly for many years, and it’s fantastic to see their importance to the nation recognised,” said RACQ Executive General Manager Advocacy, Paul Turner. “These roads carry everything from huge B-Triples and road trains, to grey nomads towing caravans and families on driving holidays. Improvement in the quality of these highways will support better transport, tourism and road safety outcomes.”
The RACQ says it particularly wants flood immunity and safety improvements.
As well as better roads, the blueprint promises to explore possible new dam sites, changes to land-use laws, and to find cash to upgrade airstrips and explore rail freight options.
The RACQ was also pleased to see a focus on improving telecommunications’ reach.
“RACQ and other rescue organisations can’t save people in emergencies if those people are unable to contact us,” said Mr Turner. “Good mobile phone coverage on remote roads will literally be a lifesaver.”
The white paper has been widely welcomed as a giant step towards enabling the full development of the north.
While improving the economic strength of Outback areas – some of which have been struggling for some time – is universally recognised as a positive, it could nonetheless mean a different experience for future grey nomads.
Just as the mining boom brought change to many remote areas, so too will large scale infrastructure development in the once ‘wild and woolly’ north.
For those adventurous travellers who mourn, rather than celebrate, the replacement of corrugated dirt tracks with gleaming bitumen, the announcement may be viewed as a bitter sweet one.
Cynics however would say that grand northern Australian development dreams have come and gone many times before, and bulldust loving nomads have still got plenty of pot-holes to look forward to.