2 November, 2022
Regional freight increases and disaster funds discussed at forum
By Sharon Bonthuys
Minister for regional transport and
roads, Sam Farraway MLC, visited
Dubbo last week as part of a regional
speaking and listening tour to outline initiatives
and talk about the future of the
state’s burgeoning freight industry.
Starting in Parkes on October 27, the
Regional Freight Forum stopped in
Dubbo on October 28. It will also visit
Grafton, Tamworth, Singleton and Griffith
before ending early-November in
About 30 representatives from business,
agriculture, the transport industry,
and local government from across the
central west attended the Dubbo event.
Minister Farraway was supported by
the member for the Dubbo electorate,
minister for agriculture and western
NSW, Dugald Saunders, and an executive
team from Transport for NSW
“These forums allow us to engage
with industry and to have important discussions
with local freight operators and
customers about their unique challenges
and opportunities,” minister Farraway
“We are committed to improving the
connectivity, capacity and resilience of
our freight network in response to the
changing needs of communities and
business across NSW.”
Freight is highly important to the
NSW economy, injecting $66 billion,
providing a vital service to business and
the community. The freight department
was brought into the TFNSW portfolio
after Mr Farraway became minister late
last year. He acknowledged that widespread
flooding and weather incidents
across the state have caused massive disruption.
“We are going to continue to
During the forum all forms of freight
“We are moving into the final phase
of the Fixing Country Rail Program.
We’ve spent plenty of money on business
cases. It’s time to build some infrastructure,
look at some axle load limits, and
where we can - back in some very wise
investments," minister Farraway said.
The minister also said he would like
to see more private investment in rail
infrastructure that supports the future
growth of business and regional contributions.
“Rail is really expensive. I think
we should do it in partnership.”
The minister said the $220 million
committed for the new Dubbo bridge
across the Macquarie-Wambuul River
will improve traffic efficiency, reduce
congestion for local, visiting and freight
operators and commuters, and improve
access across the floodplain during flood
“We need to keep the Newell
[Highway] moving, and Dubbo moving.”
Minister Farraway expressed great
disappointment in the two-year delay in
federal funding for the Great Western
Highway, saying the project was at an
advance stage of planning when the
delay was announced.
“It’s a goat track, that highway. [The
delay] impacts everyone west of the
He touched on Inland Rail and said
the department would be supporting the
project through the grade separation
(overpass) process. He said that Inland
Rail will create capacity and not take
away from existing rail infrastructure.
“We need to invest in our western
line,” he said, indicating more work will
need to be done with Australian Rail
Track Corporation on the east-west connection.
A number of other projects were
also discussed during the forum. A key
project for Gilgandra includes the $40
million Hargraves Lane and Federation
Street upgrade, which will facilitate a
heavy vehicle bypass. This will include
intersection upgrades, pavement strengthening
Applications to round six of the
Fixing Country Roads program are currently
being assessed and it is expected
that successful projects will be announced
before the end of 2022.
The heavy vehicle rest stop improvement
program has identified gaps in the
network and where new provisions may
be required for improvements to formal
and informal rest stops.
The first round
of stakeholder engagement around the
scope and type of rest stops has been
After lunch, a panel convened where
attendees could ask questions.
Gilgandra Shire Council’s general
manager David Neeves asked the panel
about natural disaster claims in the
“We’re finding there’s not enough
[qualified assessors] out there to do
this work,” Mr Neeves said, expressing
the frustration that many in the local government
“There’s an enormous amount of
frustration with landholders when we as
council say, ‘we’ve got a process to go
through for a natural disaster claim
where we’ve got to assess it, submit it,
wait for an approval before we can repair
the damage’. That process really needs to
be looked at, and possibly fine tuned,” he
said to the panel.
“Our last claim was around $7 million.
The same sections of road have
been washed away each time. We’re not
the only council that will jump up and
down about this.”
Mr Neeves said he hoped the government
was also considering elements of
‘betterment’ so rural communities would
not have to continually face the same
damaged roads every time there was a
natural disaster event.
Minister Farraway agreed with minister
Saunders that there was no magic
solution to the consultancy issue, as there
were simply not enough qualified people
to do this work. He agreed that repeated
flooding events creating multiple claims,
in turn created a situation where it was
impossible to determine when damage
was caused. He would like to see ‘resilience’
built into the assessment process
so that things are assessed and repaired
“We have two betterment funds,” he
said on that particular issue.
“One is a $200 million betterment
fund for those impacted by bushfires,
flooding and other events. And, for the
first time, we’ve got a specific regional
roads betterment fund as a trial in northern
NSW. This is a $312 million, 50-50
contribution between state and commonwealth,”
minister Farraway said.
This regional roads betterment fund
will have $10 million caps. Minister
Farraway hopes it will be used for better
designed culverts, drainage, approaches
and things of that nature.
“It has to be meaningful betterment.
What we need for the long term is that if
we can make this work, local, state and
federal governments should be budgeting
betterment every year. We need it to
come from the top down. We need the
federal government to support the states
so we can support local governments,”
minister Farraway said.
He hoped it would lead to a situation where there would always be a contingency including betterment in natural disaster funding.