Advocating for upgrades
The RACT campaign to improve the Tasman Highway bore fruit in the federal election campaign – but that doesn’t mean the fight is over. While there is now $131 million to be spent on significant upgrades over the next five years, that should be regarded as just a first instalment.
With a new Labor government in power in Canberra, we’ll continue to argue that Canberra should help fund a 10-year plan for this critical tourism route. Labor has already committed to the $100 million allocated to the highway’s Great Eastern Drive section by the previous Coalition government in the Federal Budget – so there's support across the political divide.
And, part of a federal-state agreement in May added a further $31 million to the project. This project, while welcome, focuses on safety improvements around key tourism assets – with significant upgrades already completed.
The dramatically improved reconstruction of the section between St Helens and Dianas Basin is a great example of what can be achieved – but the state alone can’t finance projects of that magnitude. What’s needed – and that’s why a 10-year plan being developed by the State Government is critical – is upgrading the entire corridor.
As any driver will tell you, between the sections that have been upgraded there are sections where the highway is narrow with crumbling edges patched with gravel, so narrow in fact that heavy vehicles often have to have their wheels in the gravel. When you add motorhomes and caravans on this key tourism route, it’s a drive more grinding than great.
These are concerns consistently raised by RACT members. They have more concerns about the safety of the Tasman Highway than any other highway in Tasmania.
And these concerns have been taken up by both the Break O’ Day and Glamorgan Spring Bay councils and the regional tourism organisation, East Coast Tourism.
That united voice was key to increasing the funding. That voice will continue to be heard in the decade ahead.
The first priority is to complete the 10-year plan and identify the priorities (see below). We also recognise that there are sections of the highway where the views attract visitors and locals alike. Again there have been welcome improvements, such as at Kelvedon Beach, but more are needed. The highly photogenic Rocky Hills section is a popular stop that needs improved roadside rest areas and signage.
The messages in our advocacy to improve the Tasman Highway are:
The highway is vital for growth in tourism and therefore critical to the economic future of the East Coast, where tourism is the biggest industry.
Safety is a key part of Tasmania’s brand.
There is also growth in agriculture and aquaculture that requires a safe and efficient transport route.
Upgrading the highway from the bottom of St Mary’s Pass to Dianas Basin, thereby completing the upgrade to St Helens. That’s at the top of the Break O’ Day council’s list and has been allocated State Government funding.
Upgrading and realigning the Cherry Tree Hill section between Cranbrook and Devils Corner.
Planning a series of passing lanes between Triabunna and Swansea.
Reducing speed limits on sections where safety improvements are needed.
Widening and sealing the road verge from the Little Swanport Bridge to Swansea. We also recognise that there are sections of the highway where the views attract visitors and locals alike. Again there have been welcome improvements, such as at Kelvedon Beach, but more are needed. The highly photogenic Rocky Hills section is a popular stop that needs improved roadside rest areas and signage.