Stock Over/Underpass Road Safety Program
|About this Item||Subjects||Roads; Cattle; Rural Industry
||Speakers||Hancock Mrs Shelley
||Business||Private Members Statements
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK (South Coast) [4.42 p.m.]: I speak this evening in support of the South Coast and Highlands Dairy Industry Group, and its continuing work to promote the Stock Over/Underpass Road Safety Program, which is also known as the SOURS program. This program is similar to one already established in Victoria, under which essentially dollar for dollar funding is provided to build safe underpasses or overpasses that allow stock to cross busy roads and to establish consistent signage, rules and guidelines for safe stock crossings across the State.
I attended a specially convened meeting of the dairy industry group [DIG] last Thursday, which was also attended by my colleague the honourable member for Kiama; Joe Chittick, chairman of the group; dairy farmers from the electorates of Kiama and Southern Highlands and my electorate of South Coast; and representatives of Shoalhaven and Kiama councils and the Moss Vale Rural Lands Protection Board. It was noted at the meeting that the Liberal-National Coalition had supported the SOURS initiative prior to the March election. There was specific reference to the honourable member for Southern Highlands and to me and to the joint press release that we issued in January 2003, stating that the matter is about:
… standing up for our rural industries, understanding the effect of increasing urban pressures and ensuring that traditional farming activities are not squeezed out by new logistic problems like traffic.
The DIG has called for assistance in circumstances where farmers own property that is divided by a rural road—which over decades has become a busy, high-speed local or regional road—across which stock must cross as often as four times a day. Historically, stock crossed roads such as Bolong Road in my electorate quite safely—it was a quiet rural road and locals understood animal behaviour and waited patiently until the stock had crossed, probably somewhat enjoying the experience. How things have changed!
Last week as part of the DIG meeting participants travelled by bus to a stock-crossing site on Bolong Road, Bomaderry and, as if scripted, watched a small car that was exceeding the speed limit screech to a halt. The driver, who was attempting to avoid the two-minute delay, almost collided with the cattle crossing the road. The driver was impatient and hostile and proceeded to abuse the dairy farmer. It was a most unfortunate incident but typical of the problems that the DIG is trying to resolve. An underpass to allow stock to cross beneath the road would resolve the problem—an accident is waiting to happen four times a day—and avert potential disaster on Bolong Road. Traffic numbers have increased fourfold in recent years and increased urban development has contributed to the problem.
Dairy farmers in my electorate who are struggling to remain viable need the assistance of government at all levels to seek and find solutions to the problems of stock crossings. I call on the State Government to show the same leadership as that which was shown in Victoria and to invest in this initiative and work towards introducing a consistent set of signs, rules and guidelines. I also encourage the honourable member for Kiama to take this issue to his party, as he witnessed first-hand the problems being experienced in the area. The subsidy costs the Victorian Government a meagre $20,000 per crossing. That is a very small price to pay to avert road crashes, and possibly fatalities, on increasingly busy rural roads.
Underpinning this initiative is the fact that we must ensure the safety and welfare of farmers, motorists and livestock while helping our farmers to remain viable. This initiative is a way of doing that. I will be monitoring very closely the actions of the honourable member for Kiama in this matter. He recently hosted a $100-per-head dinner in Parliament House for South Coast dairy farmers. Many of them complained to me afterwards that it was quite a costly event and that they could ill afford the expense but they wanted to see if any benefits would flow from it. The honourable member for Kiama subsequently moved a motion in this place in support of dairy farmers.
This is another opportunity for the honourable member for Kiama to show leadership in this area. He could replace his rhetoric with action by demonstrating his commitment to helping dairy farmers on the South Coast. The honourable member showed interest at the meeting and I discussed with him later the need to take a bipartisan approach to this issue. It is not a matter that many members who represent city electorates would be aware of but it is a growing problem in country areas where busy roads and increased traffic movements could cause disaster. I ask the Government to show some leadership and assist dairy farmers throughout New South Wales by adopting the Victorian initiative.