Doorstop, Ballarat

CATHERINE KING: Hi, Catherine King, Federal Member for Ballarat, but also Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. Well, today alongside the City of Ballarat we’re announcing over $5 million is coming into the Ballarat electorate for fixing up black spots. I’m here at Greenhalghs and Finchs Road. This is a notorious spot here in our community. We know that we’ve had at least three serious accidents here and fatalities as well. And we don’t know how many near misses. Even just seeing it today, you can see it’s a really dangerous intersection. 

This is a partnership with the City of Ballarat where we’ll be spending almost $3 million to fix this dangerous intersection. I’m really delighted that as part of the Albanese Labor Government’s budget we’ve increased the black spot road funding – that’s $110 million every single year. It’s going up to $150 million a year. And that means councils right the way across the country, communities, can apply for black spot funding to fix these really difficult intersections, difficult roads where we know there have been serious accidents occurring in our communities. 

Communities are driving on these roads every day, taking their kids to school, getting to work, going to see family. And we want as many of these roads safer – as many of these roads fixed as possible. And that’s what the announcement today is about. 

There’s money also in this package for Doveton Street and a couple of other projects, one out at [indistinct] as well, but really delighted to be here as part of that [indistinct]– as part of the work that I’m doing as Transport Minister to really increase the amount of road funding that we are giving to local councils. I’m very conscious after the wet weather events of 2022 and the maintenance work that many councils are having to do on their roads, we’re bringing, again, the Roads to Recovery Program, which is a formula-based program that goes to every single council in the country – there’s over 500 of them – we’re increasing that from $500 million to $1 billion because we know that local councils and the local roads people drive on every single day are important, and that’s why the money is important too.

Happy to take any questions or happy to hand over to Des and then we can take questions after. Would you like the Des bit or you’d like to ask me questions? 

JOURNALIST: I can do your questions first, if you’re happy. So, yeah, these are from May, and the first one is: why are these four sites the specific ones that are receiving the funding? 

CATHERINE KING: So councils can apply for the money. It’s also local communities can nominate a black spot as well in your local community. You can go to my department’s website to do that. But councils have to build these roads and councils nominate. They do that on the basis of a formula about how many crashes, what’s actually occurring at intersections, that really localised knowledge, and that’s why these roads have been chosen in this round. 

JOURNALIST: Thank you. The next one is: what are the safety upgrades that will be happening at these sites or even this specific site? 

CATHERINE KING: Well, council has got some detailed plans already. This will be a roundabout, but I’ll leave it to Des and the council to talk about the details of that. It will be up to them to tender and to do the delivery of that. But here at this intersection the best way to slow people down and get that intersection safe is through a roundabout. 

JOURNALIST: Thank you. And lastly: is there a time frame as to how long it will take? 

CATHERINE KING: Again, that’s really a matter for council, they’ll be doing the delivery work. We’re really keen to ensure that the project is delivered, and that’s why the money is being made available today. 

JOURNALIST: Thanks so much. 

CATHERINE KING: You are welcome. 

JOURNALIST: It seems as though a lot of our councils struggle with just how much roads cost at the moment. Is the funding model that we have – the work that you’re doing to help this funding model, is that enough? 

CATHERINE KING: Yeah, so what we have from the federal government, which is a really important funding partner with local government, we have Financial Assistance Grants which include a roads component. And that’s millions of dollars going into every single council. Roads to Recovery is in addition to that. And, again, for councils it varies. It depends on rural, regional remoteness, the length of your roads. But that’s almost around I think about $15 million here in the City of Ballarat in addition to about the $18 million in terms of Financial Assistance Grants. They’re really important parts of the roads system. 

Then there are competitive programs like the Black Spots Program, like our new Safer Local Roads Program as well that councils can apply to. And then, of course, for those larger roads we work in partnership with state governments who are largely funded by [indistinct] safety upgrades to those. The federal government’s responsibilities are really to partner with local government, partner with state governments to co-fund and co-invest in those roads. And then we’ve got a bigger job to play when it comes to productivity – making sure our freight moves safely around the country. And so some of our big investments such as the Maroona to Portland rail link that we’re doing, hundreds of millions of dollars into those projects. They’re really about productivity and getting our freight moving around the country. 

JOURNALIST: So this area, you know, people have been living here for, say, a decade and have watched the growth area come closer and closer to their homes. Why is there so much lag between growth and – 

CATHERINE KING: Yeah, well, obviously what you do want to do from a planning point of view is build the infrastructure and then build the housing. But often – what we’ve got at the moment is an incredibly high demand for housing. We have to build more homes. And, you’re right, there has been often a lag. We often build the housing and then the infrastructure comes afterwards. What we’re trying to do is tip that on the head. It’s also why just recently we’ve signed agreements with every single state and territory for a program called the Housing Support Program. That is $1 billion that we have given to every state and territory to actually help build infrastructure around new housing developments. And that – you’ll start to see that roll out shortly after. I’ve just literally signed within the last two days that money going. I think it’s over – I think it’s around [indistinct]. 

JOURNALIST: As a local member is that to make [indistinct] hope you will do better when it comes to the [indistinct]? 

CATHERINE KING: Well, I think council does an incredible job. And I’ve seen over the time I’ve been a member here, you know, just the huge development of Lucas, the huge development out here at Winter Valley, and you’re seeing that expand. We also want to see lots of [indistinct], as well, so making sure that we’re using productively every single part we possibly can of our community to make sure that we’re housing people we know, that in order to take housing stress off people that supply [indistinct] homes. But we also want to build homes that are good quality, in great places for people to live that have good amenity as well. And I think council does a great job doing that. 

JOURNALIST: These two black spots – two of these black spots [indistinct] this year for Ballarat have had fatalities. What do you say to the residents that feel like [indistinct]? 

CATHERINE KING: The Black Spot road funding program really is to try to make sure we’re concentrating on the worst – we haven’t got enough money to [indistinct] but it’s to really concentrate on what are the worst roads, how do we do those worst roads first. And it’s awful – no-one should be dying on our roads. We know that the road toll is way too high, and it’s really important that we fix the worst roads. And this obviously behind us is one of those. 

JOURNALIST: Thank you. 

CATHERINE KING: You’re welcome. 

SPEAKER: We’ll get the mayor to jump in now. 

JOURNALIST: So happy to start whenever you’re ready. 

DES HUDSON: No worries. Des Hudson, Mayor of the City of Ballarat. And very pleased to be here on site this morning for the joint announcement with the federal Member for Ballarat announcing Black Spot funding that will go towards a resolution for Finches Road and Greenhalghs Road here in Ballarat as well as a number of other sites. 

But certainly this is a notorious site for us. I think it’s important to mention today that 167 lives have been lost on regional and rural roads throughout Victoria this year. That’s 167 families that will be forever impacted with the loss of a loved one. And 145 of those lives lost on rural roads. So rural roads which are at this moment the largest killer of people on our roads. So programs such as black spot in locations like this, to be able to slow traffic down, to be able to bring people to navigate an intersection much more safely is a really important project. 

So, $2 million invested from the Federal Government and almost $1 million from the City of Ballarat. This has been a site that locals have been advocating to us for some years, and it’s great now that we’ve received the funding and we’ll be able to have a strategy in place that will make sure this intersection is far safer going into the future. 

JOURNALIST: Shall I do some questions now? So, I’ll just run over a couple that I’ve previously asked. So, Mays asking about specific safety upgrades at this site. 

DES HUDSON: Yeah, so, at this site what we will see is the implementation of a roundabout and some lane [indistinct] as well as signage that will hopefully slow vehicles down as they approach the intersection from all four sides. So I think that’s going to be one of the better measures that traffic will be coming into this intersection at a far slower rate than what we’re seeing just with a cross road intersection at the moment. 

JOURNALIST: Thank you. And just a question about the time frame – how long these projects will take? 

DES HUDSON: Yeah, so now that the funding has been announced we will do the design and plan over the next 12 months and then implementation in the following year. So we will add that to already a busy set of works that we have planned. But it’s not too far away that residents will see the significant change to this roundabout and hopefully we’ll see a much safer intersection for years to come. 

JOURNALIST: Thank you. Now, just quickly, do you want to ask your questions about this or should I quickly move on to my [indistinct] Community Hub questions? Happy for you to jump in now. 

SPEAKER: Yeah, I guess, like I said to Catherine so many people, like, in the interim [indistinct], what [indistinct]? 

DES HUDSON: Yeah, and already this morning, just being here for 15, 20 minutes, we’ve seen the volume of traffic that use this road. It’s often a connector road from those at Ross Creek going through to Lucas. It’s a very busy intersection. We need to make sure that people are mindful. When they start out their journey they plan to arrive alive. [Indistinct], please, take their time, navigate every intersection as safely as possible and drive to the conditions is really important. Just noticing on this particular intersection where you’re coming from Ross Creek in, it is a bit of a blind corner with a significant number of trees, so people really need to be slowing at this intersection to give themselves a clear view to be able to see what’s coming along Greenhalghs Road. 

JOURNALIST: It feels like every weekend that I work I’m going out to a crash and there’s some more in this area just because there’s roadworks going on in other roads. How are we going with such big growth in this area? How do you manage the growth versus upgrading the roads before people are there? 

DES HUDSON: Yeah, look, and it’s always a contentious point as to what comes first. You want to make sure that where growth is happening you’ve got significant infrastructure that’s in place. Obviously sometimes road upgrades are dependent on traffic volumes and traffic counts. But where we’ve been able to identify this particular intersection on some crash data, unfortunately two lives that I'm aware of have been lost, and a number of serious crashes and countless number of other near misses over many, many years. So making sure there’s a good viable traffic network for people to be able to get around, but people still need to take responsibility themselves for their driving behaviour. Every time we get behind the wheel of a car it is upon us to be able to plan for our safe arrival and to not impact other drivers that are on the roads as well. 

JOURNALIST: What have you learned from council developing their growth plan [indistinct]? 

DES HUDSON: Yeah, I guess in terms of making sure those connector roads that are really vital, people that are going from suburb to suburb. At the moment we’re seeing some works at Dyson Drive at Carngham Road that’s probably increasing the traffic that’s coming around this area. I think making sure we are providing for that, people that may then be using a road they’re less familiar with and they’re not necessarily being aware of the road conditions sometimes can present a danger that people need to be aware of. 

JOURNALIST: Now, are you happy to answer questions – 

DES HUDSON: Yeah, absolutely.