With a by-election on the horizon in the seat of Eden-Monaro, major issues affecting the region have an opportunity to get back on the agenda and have their place in public discussion once more, after being overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic for the last few months.
One such issue is the Brindabella Road project, something that various advocates have been pushing for for over 100 years now.
The road connects Canberra and Tumut via the Brindabella Ranges, and advocate David Sheldon said that upgrading the road would have “endless” opportunities. He hopes to see Eden-Monaro political candidates pushing for the project during their campaigns.
Mr Sheldon said that since the amalgamation of Snowy Valleys Council there has been “very little” action towards Brindabella Road, and further lobbying needs to take place in Canberra, right up to the federal government.
“It’s great to go and have a chat with the Deputy Prime Minister, but there’s a lot more departments that should be contacted and there’s a lot more lobbying that is required,” he said.
“All one has to do is look at the success of the Outback Way from Winton through to the west coast, and just see how much can be accomplished in such a small amount of time.”
With the Covid-19 pandemic changing travel behaviours and making people want to travel within Australia, often regionally, rather than going overseas, Mr Sheldon said the obvious benefit of a Brindabella Road upgrade is tourism.
“Research has actually shown that people will be looking more towards the region as a safe bet,” Mr Sheldon said.
“We’re talking about our economy; infrastructure is the thing that will drive not only the economy but it will drive the social fabric of regional Australia and improve the fabric of regional Australia.”
He pointed out that a lot of people bypass the ACT and go straight down the Hume into Victoria, and that if we had a road across the Brindabella the Snowy Valleys would benefit immensely.
He pointed out an array of benefits besides tourism, which he said are often overlooked; health care options, legal and finance services, higher education and job opportunities.
“People have just been talking about the importance of tourism while…nearly every sector of industry from both sides of the mountain would benefit from it,” Mr Sheldon said.
Citing the various benefits, Mr Sheldon said that Brindabella Road is a “big picture project,” and that those running for the seat of Eden-Monaro need to treat it as such.
“Someone should be knocking on those doors in Canberra. Anthony Albanese, the leader of the opposition, he is very much for infrastructure to open up regional Australia. We should be talking to him.”
Mr Sheldon thinks that Kristy McBain, the Bega Mayor and only confirmed candidate for Eden-Monaro as of Thursday morning, will push for the project, but has some reservations that “those people that are very coastal centric are very coastal centric.”
Going forward, Mr Sheldon said that the biggest priorities for Brindabella Road is getting it shovel ready so that funding can be procured, as well as a mindset change so that people at all levels of government view it as a long-term project.
“We’ve got to get away from the short term projects…and look [at the] long term to really start to build regional Australia and make Australia actually be able to support itself,” he said.
“Everyone’s got to look beyond tomorrow and this is one thing unfortunately I think our government’s and our council fail to do.”