Transport minister rubbishes BORR arguments by lobby group

Jacinta CantatoreBunbury Herald
South West Highway - Bunbury Outer Ring Road interchange
Camera IconSouth West Highway - Bunbury Outer Ring Road interchange Credit: Credit: Main Roads/TheWest

The State Government has shut down misinformation being spread by a small lobby group near Bunbury about one of the South West’s largest ever infrastructure projects.

Environmental group Friends of Gelorup, made up of a handful of community members opposing the pending Bunbury Outer Ring Road (BORR), have again made a number of false claims about the key regional road development, this time stating it has not received relevant environmental approvals and telling residents perceived “cost blowouts” would be passed onto them.

The group was formed solely to oppose the project, which is on track despite shutdowns due to COVID-19 pressures.

Once completed, the road would slash transport times and boost safety benefits, remove 13 sets of traffic lights, and create local jobs and support economic growth within the region during construction.

The BORR has passed rigorous assessments from environmental authorities at both the State and Federal level.

WA’s Environment Minister Reece Whitby gave the State’s environmental approval for the southern section of the BORR on May 31 after it had been approved by the WA Environmental Protection Authority.

The Commonwealth’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water — overseen by Cabinet ministers Chris Bowen and Tanya Plibersek — gave approval for the BORR on June 29.

This Federal environmental assessment came with specific provisions to “avoid or minimise” impacts on threatened species in the area.

The project has also received bi-partisan support, the State Labor and Federal Liberal governments each adding millions of dollars in their respective 2022/23 Budgets to keep the project viable in the face of increased global construction costs.

Despite this, a Friends of Gelorup statement earlier this month said there were no “budget constraints or independent reviews” of the BORR, stating the project was “running several months later than planned and is currently less than 25 per cent complete”.

“The Friends of the Gelorup Corridor Inc call for an immediate halt to clearing and construction on the Southern section of the Bunbury Outer Ring Rd to allow Infrastructure WA, to perform an independent assessment of the costs, impacts, schedule and promised outcomes for this road,” the statement read.

“The expected time savings for motorists bypassing Bunbury on the BORR being reduced from an expected 15 minutes to less than 10 minutes.”

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti has shut down the claims, saying the BORR would deliver a safe and efficient road network for freight, tourists and locals.

“The southern section of BORR has now received all appropriate environmental approvals after a rigorous independent assessment process,” Ms Saffioti said.

“Once complete, motorists on the BORR could expect to save up to 18 minutes, depending on their destination.”

The $1.25b BORR will create a 27km free-flowing highway linking the Forrest and Bussell highways to allow for increased traffic in the region while allowing trucks carrying freight to bypass Bunbury.

The BORR is expected to be completed by early 2024. The southern section will connect South Western Highway near the Bunbury Airport, to Bussell Highway, providing a link with the BORR’s northern and central sections and the Port Access Road.

On Sunday, the Friends of Gelorup Corridor invited Dr Bob Brown to speak at a community talk on the “precautionary principle” recently used by the Bob Brown Foundation to help halt construction of a heavy-metals mine tailings dam in the Tarkine Forest in Tasmania.

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