Two new expert reports have revealed the full cost of continued State Government inaction to upgrade Baw Baw Shire’s 100-year old arterial road network may approach $1.5 billion.
The studies, undertaken on behalf of Baw Baw Shire Council by expert consultants REMPLAN and GHD respectively, have detailed the long-term costs should Regional Roads Victoria continue with a minimal-to-no-investment approach to the arterial road network in and around Warragul and Drouin. Their findings show the cost of a do-nothing-approach to Baw Baw’s economy will range between $1.27 billion and $1.50 billion over the next 30 years.
Baw Baw Shire has the third highest population growth rate in regional Victoria and will continue to increase as an estimated 20,000 new homes are constructed.
Agriculture is one of the top industries in Baw Baw Shire, supplying 10% of Victoria’s vegetable supply per annum, and with the Gippsland region providing up to 22% of dairy products Australia wide.
The REMPLAN report estimates that by 2045, total economic impact for the Gippsland Region from retail and commercial activity within the Drouin Town Centre is anticipated to include a gross revenue of $182 million and in turn support 815 ongoing jobs. That economic growth could be hindered or put at risk by a no-investment approach.
The rapid residential and industrial growth is already placing enormous pressure on the State-managed arterial roads that serve as key transport routes between the Drouin and Warragul town centres, and as connectors to metropolitan Melbourne in the west, and the Latrobe Valley and Central and East Gippsland in the east.
With traffic volumes exceeding 13,000 vehicles, including 600 heavy vehicles each day, the 100-year-old arterial road network is no longer fit to cater for the volume of residential, commercial and industrial traffic it sees daily.
Without alternative transport routes to support more efficient and safer transport for livestock, extractive resources and agricultural produce in and out of the region, the congestion on these arterial roads will put the brakes on the regions’ commercial and industrial growth.
The impacts of not addressing the congestion extends beyond industry, to the quality of life for the Baw Baw Shire community, with increased congestion, noise, localised pollution, longer travel times, increased road maintenance costs, and growing concerns regarding emergency service access and increasing difficulties accessing education locations.
Baw Baw Shire Council has been actively advocating to the State Government over the past 12 months to allocate $3 million in funding to Regional Roads Victoria (RRV) to design a modern, fit for purpose arterial road network, so far without securing commitment.
Now, with the cost of inaction estimated to cost the local economy up to $1.5 billion over the next 30 years, and with the State Government election fast approaching, Council will seek every opportunity to advocate to all sides of the political spectrum to support our region’s residential, commercial and industrial growth, and commit to $3 million for RRV to undertake proper design works aimed at addressing the congestion on Baw Baw’s state-owned arterial roads.
To learn more about Council’s ongoing advocacy efforts for better roads for Baw Baw, go to Warragul and Drouin Bypass – The road to a better future for Baw Baw.
Quote attributable to Mayor Cr Michael Leaney
“Baw Baw is one of the fastest growing regions in the State. We’re at the beating heart of the Gippsland economy. What we’re asking for is $3 million in allocated State Government funding to Regional Roads Victoria to support our region’s growth, and to undertake badly needed design planning for an arterial road network capable of dealing with industrial and residential traffic we’re seeing now and which will only get worse into the future.
The figures speak for themselves. The cost of doing nothing to upgrade Baw Baw’s State-owned roads network is not only impacting our residents and businesses right now, but it will also cost our economy up to $1.5 billion over the next 30 years.
That’s why we have made this issue an absolute priority on behalf of local industry and residents. It is vital that we make travelling within Baw Baw’s major towns of Drouin and Warragul safer and more convenient for residents, and more efficient for business and industry, if we are to avoid the brakes being slammed on our economy.”