Construction begins on Tanami Road

Sealing has begun of the Western Australian section of Tanami Road, which links the Great Northern Highway near Halls Creek with the Northern Territory border.

Sealing has begun of the Western Australian section of Tanami Road, which links the Great Northern Highway near Halls Creek with the Northern Territory border.

Work on the first 41-kilometre section through the hills south of the Great Northern Highway is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

Tanami Road is 1,016 kilometres long and mostly unsealed, extending through the Northern Territory to Alice Springs.

The road is notoriously difficult to drive, becoming rough and corrugated during the dry season with long road closures during the wet season, cutting off access to the communities it services.

Sealing the road will deliver improved and safer access to remote Aboriginal communities and mine sites, as well as a more resilient road freight network by providing an alternative route into northern Western Australia from the eastern states.

The Australian and Western Australian governments have committed $542.8 million to complete sealing of the 313-kilometre WA section of the road over the next 10 years, after design and development work started in 2020.

The project will be directly managed by Main Roads Western Australia on behalf of the Shire of Halls Creek, using local Kimberley businesses with a focus on long-term Aboriginal engagement and employment.

Four new local Aboriginal start-up businesses are currently engaged on the project, with two more to begin soon. More than $15 million in contracts have been awarded to Aboriginal businesses to date.

More than 65 per cent of the current workforce are Aboriginal, and two-thirds of those workers are local from the Shire of Halls Creek, with further initiatives planned to provide more opportunities for local residents to work on the project.

In the Northern Territory, 300 kilometres of the 703-kilometre section of road has already been sealed, with an additional 30 kilometres from Alice Springs due for completion mid-this year, and a further 90 kilometres due for completion during 2025.

Quotes attributable to Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King:

"The Albanese Labor Government recognises the importance of improving our country's road freight network, and sealing the Tanami – as we committed to do at the election - will be critical to delivering greater resilience for this nationally significant east-west link.

"Sealing the road will also make it safer and more reliable for local communities, while the extended delivery time will ensure we create sustainable and long-term employment and training outcomes for local Aboriginal people."

Quotes attributable to WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti:

"The Tanami is an important and significant connector road for people across the Kimberley, and to see sealing works begin on the Western Australian section is a major milestone.

"We saw first-hand during the Kimberley floods the impact when road access is cut, so investing in new sealed road connections, like the Tanami, will be critical for our future resilience to severe weather.

"Sealing the route will ensure safe, all-year access for local residents, local Aboriginal communities and those travelling into Western Australia from the east coast.

"We are committed to providing sustainable Aboriginal engagement throughout the life of the project, and look forward to continued consultation with the Traditional Owners and other local Aboriginal people to ensure this occurs."

Quotes attributable to Federal Senator for Western Australia Glenn Sterle:

"Sealing this road will make Aboriginal communities it services less remote by providing safer and more flood resilient access.

"This work will provide a reliable alternative freight route into northern Western Australia from the eastern states.

"This improves an essential link in Australia's outback and remote road highway network, benefiting locals and travellers for years to come."

Quotes attributable to WA Kimberley MLA Divina D'Anna:

"The Tanami is a critical transport link for a number of remote Aboriginal communities in the East Kimberley, and sealing the road will make safer and more reliable all year round.

"I will be working closely with the Minister for Transport to ensure we drive the best outcomes for local Aboriginal people and communities during the project.

"Delivering the project over an extended period provides us with a significant opportunity to deliver long-term and sustainable employment and training outcomes for local communities."