Journeys for the people of Pooncarie and Menindee are about to change dramatically as work gets underway to seal one of the region’s major arterial routes.
Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton said the upgrade of Pooncarie Road between Menindee and Pooncarie, from a dirt road to a bitumen sealed road, would result in less road closures from rain events.
“The majority of the road is still unsealed which often results in communities being isolated for weeks at a time after rainfall,” Mr Coulton said.
“The 87.5 kilometres of bitumen sealing to be carried out over the next three years will ensure motorists enjoy safer, faster and more reliable journeys, opening up the area to tourism and freight operators while connecting the historic towns of Pooncarie, Menindee, Wilcannia, White Cliffs and Broken Hill.”
NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said the upgrade was fantastic news for people who used the road frequently and needed to access crucial services on a daily basis.
“We’ve demonstrated how sealing a road can change the lives of the local communities with the sealing of the Silver City Highway from Broken Hill to Tibooburra – road closures from flooding are now only days instead of weeks,” Mr Toole said.
“About 75 people will be employed during this three-year project which will boost local employment and unlock opportunities for primary producers and tourism operators. The new road will be a huge asset for the region.”
Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley said the recent federal funding announcement of $4.6 million, which has been matched by NSW, meant that 26.5 kilometres of road would now be sealed through the Wentworth Shire in addition to the 61 kilometres through the Central Darling Shire.
“A fully sealed road will reduce travel times by about 90 minutes between Menindee and Wentworth – at present some vehicles are forced to travel at around 20km/hour along parts of the dirt road,” Ms Ley said.
“This will mean all kinds of vehicles, including caravans, will now have year-round access to the environmental drawcards of Menindee Lakes and Mungo National Park.”
NSW Member of the Legislative Council Sam Farraway said the upgrade would transform journeys for not only locals, but also tourists and freight operators.
“Pooncarie Road connects people in the Menindee Lakes area with emergency and health services, schools and other services – and the freight operators who bring supplies like groceries,” Mr Farraway said.
“All too often, the road is impassable or washes away in heavy rainfall or flooding, isolating these communities often for weeks, so it’s great we’re getting on with the job of delivering this project for local communities.”
Darryl Cowie, who moved to Menindee 27 years ago and has owned the Burke and Wills Motel since 2006, said he was looking forward to seeing tourists flock to the area once Pooncarie Road is sealed.
“Visitors to Menindee drive in from Broken Hill and soon realise that they need to travel back the same way. The sealing of Pooncarie Road will really open up the Far South West area for exploring and make access easier for emergency services,” Mr Cowie said.
Freight operator John Coombe, a born-and-bred Menindee local, thinks the sealing of Pooncarie Road will ‘link the break in the chain’.
“Not only will we see an increase in visitors to Menindee but for freight operators like myself, Pooncarie Road will become a reliable commute that’s not affected by weather anymore,” Mr Coombe said.
Work started on the Central Darling Shire portion of the project on Tuesday, 19 January with works to start on the Wentworth Shire portion of the project in the first half of 2021.