Gulf Savannah Way

BRIEFING NOTE SUMMARY
  • The Gulf Savannah Way stretches for 3,700 km and is considered to be one of the top 10 Great Australian Drives, linking Cairns in Tropical North Queensland to Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley.
  • Drive tourism delivers $69.8 million into the Gulf region annually, with 38%of visitors entering the Savannah Way via Cairns.
  • Large segments of the Queensland section of the Savannah Way are unsealed and flood prone, isolating communities during the wet season and limiting the economic value of this northern road link.
  • Sealing the Queensland section of the Gulf Savannah Way is estimated to require an investment of $186 million, split 80:20 between the State and Federal Governments.
  • Federal investment of $50 million was allocated in 2019 through the Roads of Strategic Importance – next priorities initiative. To ensure this funding is matched 80:20 by the State, sections of the Savannah Way require formal declaration as a State-controlled road.
THE ISSUE

The Gulf Savannah Way traverses Northern Australia, linking Cairns in Tropical North Queensland to Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley. The route is approximately 3,700 km long, crossing 15 National Parks, five World Heritage areas and a variety of natural routes across the Top End.

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

The North West Queensland section of the Gulf Savannah Way takes in 313km with almost 60% of the road already sealed, however there are critical missing links that require pavement upgrades, bitumen seal, minor realignment of substandard curves, concrete causeways and four major river crossings.

As large sections of the Savannah Way remain unsealed and flood prone, communities become isolated during the annual wet season which limits the economic value of this northern road link. Upgrading the Queensland segment of the Gulf Savannah Way will require replacing existing substandard infrastructure with a 7.5m wide bitumen sealed pavement, with concrete causeways through creek crossings and raised floodways (using 1.2m high culverts) through major river crossings.

 

BACKGROUND

Normanton to Burketown is approximately 221km with about 50% unsealed. This section requires pavement augmentation and bitumen sealing to 7.5m wide, some minor realignment, concrete causeways and a major culvert crossing at the Leichhardt River.

Burketown to Doomadgee is approximately 88km long and fully sealed but has two major river crossings at the Gregory River and Nicholson River which require some minor pavement, alignment and causeway improvements. Doomadgee to NT Border is approximately 104km long with only 30% sealed. This section requires pavement augmentation and bitumen sealing to 7.5m wide, minor realignment and concrete causeways plus a major river crossing at Branch Creek.

In recognising the need to seal the Gulf Savannah Way, in 2019 the Federal Government committed $50 million to road upgrades through the Roads of Strategic Importance – next priorities initiative. However, large sections of the Savannah Way have a Regional road designation, meaning formal declaration as State-controlled road is required to ensure this funding is matched by the Queensland Government under the 80:20 Commonwealth State Roads funding model.

NEXT STEPS

Sealing the remaining Queensland sections of the Gulf Savannah Way is estimated to require an investment of $186 million. Completing the project over a 10-year period with funds made available to local councils each year will allow the retention of a local workforce. The estimated investment breakdown is as follows:

  • Normanton to Burketown – $100 million to be constructed progressively over 10 consecutive years.
  • Burketown to Doomadgee – $30 million funded over 4 consecutive financial years (equally in years 1-4).
  • Doomadgee to NT Border – $56 million to be provided in equal instalments over the 10-year project period.
  • The project will extend across North West Queensland, travelling along the Gulf of Carpentaria from Normanton to the Northern Territory boarder, passing through Burketown, Doomadgee and Hell’s Gate in Queensland and connecting to Wollogorang in the Northern Territory.
OUR RECOMMENDATION
  • That the Queensland and Federal Governments support the sealing and improved flood resilience of the western Queensland section of the National Highway by providing 80:20 project funding in accordance with the Commonwealth State Roads funding model.
  • That during 2019-2020 the Queensland Government work with local Councils to amend the Queensland Transport Infrastructure Act (1994) to declare all Queensland sections of the Gulf Savannah Way as State-controlled road.
  • That allocation of funds be distributed to the controlling Local Government Authorities in equal portions over a 10-year period from 2019-2020.

Savannah Way Map - Northern Australia

PROPONENTS: Advance Cairns, Burke Shire Council, Carpentaria Shire Council, Doomadgee Aboriginal Shire Council
PRIORITY: Infrastructure
COUNCILS: Burke, Carpentaria, Doomadgee
STATE ELECTORATE: Traeger
FEDERAL ELECTORATE: Kennedy