Kim O’KEEFFE (Shepparton) (19:17): (227) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, and the action that I seek is that the minister demand that the federal minister for infrastructure and transport ensures that the Shepparton bypass project remains an active and ongoing project. We do not want to see the Shepparton bypass scrapped by a federal Labor government’s independent infrastructure review. The minister must protect the millions of taxpayer dollars already committed to this vital project. The former federal coalition government contributed $208 million after an initial $10.2 million – Victorian taxpayer dollars – were enshrined in the 2017–18 budget for early works and finalisation of the business case, plus a further $1.107 million and $1 million in the 2023–24 budget for planning the bypass and improving links in Shepparton.
The urgency of this long-overdue project can be seen just in stage 1, which includes a second river crossing to remove the endless convoy of heavy vehicles from the CBDs of Shepparton and Mooroopna. The Peter Ross-Edwards Causeway, the only river crossing between Shepparton and Mooroopna, already carries 30,000-plus vehicles daily, and counting. When the October 2022 flood shut down the Peter Ross-Edwards Causeway the impact was utter chaos, and delaying our first responders from being where they needed to be was potentially life-threatening. Shepparton remains the state’s only major regional city without a bypass. This is astounding, considering more than 25 per cent of the state’s trucks are registered in the Goulburn Valley and Shepparton remains a significant transport hub in both north–south and east–west traffic.
If the minister would care to stand anywhere in the main street of Shepparton or Mooroopna to experience firsthand the constant convoy of trucks belting through the heart of these towns, the excessive noise, the exhaust pollution and the heightened risk factor to pedestrians, road users or vulnerable tourists not familiar with local conditions, and also to take the time to speak to the many industries and small business owners and listen to the detrimental impact they are experiencing, she would be forced to agree this must be started now.
We are a progressive, productive region, one of Australia’s most successful, and a food bowl for Victoria and Australia as well as international exports, all of which contribute so much to the economy’s bottom line. We deserve to progress and to have an efficient and safe movement of transport. Minister, you are well aware of the long history and the critical need for this project. We need this bypass, and the future of this is in your hands now. Failure to save the Shepparton bypass from further delays or abandonment will have a significant detrimental impact on our region. I ask you to ensure that the Shepparton bypass remains a priority project.