Savannah Way (Gulf Section)

An integrated and efficient road connectivity network is critical for economic stability and growth.

The Savannah Way, spanning 3700km from Cairns in FNQ to Broome in Western Australia, crosses 15 national parks and five World Heritage areas. This route, ranked among Australia’s top 10 road trips, generates $69.8m annually for the Gulf region, with 38% of travelers commencing their journey in Cairns.

The 888km Gulf section from Forty Mile Scrub to the Northern Territory border requires pavement upgrades, bitumen sealing, and other enhancements. In 2019, the Australian and Queensland Governments allocated $62.5m for road upgrades through the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative.

Completing this project over 10 years with annual investments will bolster local road networks and enhance safety for heavy vehicles and tourists, benefiting remote towns like Croydon, Burketown, and Doomadgee.

Benefits to the region

The sealing of the Savannah Way road brings forth multifaceted benefits for the region.

Foremost, it triggers a surge in economic and social outcomes, fostering growth and development across various sectors. By enhancing safety measures and bolstering resilience, this initiative ensures a more secure and reliable transport infrastructure.

Additionally, the sealing of the road significantly enhances regional connectivity, particularly benefiting isolated and remote communities, facilitating smoother access to essential services and amenities.

Furthermore, the project actively supports the development of the local workforce, creating opportunities for skill-building and employment within the region.

Recommendation

The Queensland Government supports the sealing and improved flood resilience of the Gulf section of the Savannah Way by providing project funding, and that allocation of funds be distributed to the controlling Local Government Authorities in equal portions over a 10-year period from 2024-25 onwards.

Project overview

The Savannah Way traverses northern Australia, linking Cairns in FNQ to Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley. The route is about 3700km long, crossing 15 national parks and five World Heritage areas as it traverses the Top End.

Considered to be in the top 10 road trips of Australia, the self-drive tourism market delivers $69.8m annually into the Gulf region¹, with 38% of visitors starting the journey in Cairns.

The Gulf section of the Savannah Way takes in 888km from Forty Mile Scrub west of Mt Garnet to the Northern Territory border, with significant sections of the road already sealed. However, there are many substantial sections that require pavement upgrades, bitumen seal, minor realignment of substandard curves, concrete causeways, and four major river crossing upgrades.

Recognising the need to seal the Gulf section of the Savannah Way, in 2019 the Australian and Queensland Governments committed $62.5m for road upgrades through the Roads of Strategic Importance – next priorities initiative. This will be spent across various shire councils, with a prioritised list formulated in 2021. The Garnet to Carpentaria Shire border section is 510km and requires funding to upgrade the road and floodways for reliability and to meet current construction and safety standards for heavy vehicles, tourists and commuters. Burke Shire to the Northern Territory border is about 300km long with less than 50% of the road sealed.

Upgrading the remaining sections is estimated to require at least $39.8m annually over 10 years (including the $62.5m already committed). Completing the project over 10 years with annual investments to local councils will allow for incremental improvements on this road and ensure the retention of a local roads workforce.

The project will extend across north-west Queensland, travelling along the Gulf of Carpentaria from Forty Mile Scrub to the Northern Territory border, passing through remote towns including Croydon, Burketown, and Doomadgee in Queensland and connecting to Wollogorang in the Northern Territory.

¹ Gulf Savannah Development, Tourism Survey Report, March 2018, 

Last updated: 17 November 2023

2024-25 Queensland Budget Submission

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