Thursday 24 March 2005

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, members of this House who drive around the State a lot may have noticed a dramatic increase in the standard of new roadworks and in my special interest debate there may be some reflected glory here for the Public Works Committee and yes, I was hoping the Chair and the Deputy Chair would stay.

Our roads may now be more expensive to build and improve but these days they are much more environmentally friendly and safer for users and more recently built roads are definitely there for the long haul. So what has happened? Firstly, planning for road improvements has become much more sophisticated. Drainage and water management is more scientific. Road routing is better and safer and our earthmoving and handling equipment is much more efficient. This of course has not happened overnight but is a result of improvements over some years by the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources. The project manager for the West Tamar Highway reconstruction, Michael King, says that better auditing systems are now in place and the tendering system, based among other factors on the track record of a tenderer and their management team, is working very well.

At the beginning of this week I attended a briefing on the latest work on the West Tamar Highway on the environmentally sensitive section, past the wetlands, between Riverside and Legana. This is no Gallipoli road project. I was greatly impressed by the way the project is being managed to prevent environmental damage to the wetlands, to avoid traffic delays and to smooth the flow of work. Not only that, this long-awaited improvement to this very contentious West Tamar Highway is six weeks ahead of schedule. Tasmanian road-builders must be doing something right, Mr President.

When building roads nowadays there are a lot of environmental factors to be considered. In this case, slit-top fencing to prevent sediments entering the wetlands is mandatory. New drains are a big part of the project with special pits and culverts and rock filters to slow the water draining into the wetlands. With a scheduled completion in March next year, roadworks must continue through the winter months and sub?base metal is being prepared so work can proceed without damage during that wet period. This new section of highway is expected to be serving a Legana population increased from 2 700 to something like 10 000 within 20 years. It has been designed to very high safety standards. A new roundabout at the last entry from Acropolis Drive, south of Legana, is seen as the safest option to slow traffic after a high-speed section. The number of accesses to the highway has been minimised by branching a number of properties off the one single access road. All this makes the entry to the highway more controlled and safer for all users.

The car park for the wetland centre will have separate accesses in and out and there is a holding lane large enough to safely accommodate buses that are turning in. There is a G?turn similar to those on the Midland Highway and that will enable big vehicles to turn back if they have overshot a turn?off.

Parks and Wildlife's wetland centre, which gives boardwalk access to Tamar Island, is becoming increasingly popular. It is a great tourist asset for the West Tamar and for Tasmania. To allow future expansion, Parks have purchased another block just to the south. Infrastructure work like this section of the West Tamar Highway stimulates local economies, as you would understand, Mr President. Although the main contractor, Andrew Walters, is from the south of the State, local subcontractors - and I mean local from the north - and truck hirers are involved. Of course, construction materials are locally sourced as much as possible. The West Tamar Council and the West Tamar residents have fought long and hard for these improvements to this section of their access to Launceston - over 20 years. It is 24 years ago since Don Davey's wife and daughter were killed on that section of the highway and the campaign has been going since then. It seems to me, Mr President, the long wait will prove to have been worthwhile.