NT road sealing costs threat to Outback Way?


2503 Outback Way wild flowers OKBy ERWIN CHLANDA
The exorbitant cost, which remains unexplained by the government, of road sealing in the Territory may be emerging as a major obstacle to the progress of the Outback Way.
The east-west link across Australia through Alice Springs is widely seen as an opportunity for lifting the town out of its tourism slump.
But the cost of road sealing in the NT is 2.5 times higher than in WA and 2.8 times than in Queensland.
The NT Government has recently completed the “Inner Loop” seal, not part of the Outback Way, between Hermannsburg and Glen Helen at a cost of $707,500 per kilometre.
The Laverton Shire in WA, a key partner in the Outback Way project, affectionately called The World’s Longest Shortcut, is gearing up to seal 40 kms, 380 kms north east of Laverton, at a cost of $275,000 per kilometre.
2503 Outback Way Len Beadell's grader OKAnd we have reported that the Boulia Shire across the Queensland border seals roads for $250,000 per kilometre.
In every case the work starts with an existing dirt road.
The sections yet to be sealed in the NT are the Plenty Highway between the Queensland border and Harts Range, and from the Olgas to the WA border.
It is clear that grey nomads, who travel in huge numbers on the sealed Stuart Highway in their caravans and mobile homes, generally will not go near a road that isn’t sealed all the way.
An all-weather road, or one that would be far less vulnerable to flooding and rain damage than the present one, would cut off some 500 kilometres from a trip between Alice Springs and Brisbane.
Alice Springs Mayor Damien Ryan, co-chairman of the Outback Way Development Council, when asked to comment, said: “Roads built in Queensland are of a different standard. It’s a main highway for the Territory, it’s a wider road, it has more conditions to it. In Queensland it’s a road leading into the desert, as far as they are concerned.”
And: “Taking into account issues such as road safety I agree with the way the NT builds its roads. It’s a national highway. It will be a higher standard when you cross the border.”
2505 Patrick HillBut the chairman of the development council, Laverton Shire president Patrick Hill (at right), says the standard of the roads built by his shire are fully compliant with Australian Standards. They are wider than normally required – eight meters instead of seven.
The standard needs to be compliant with state government requirements because from time to time the shire hands over roads to the state, he says.
Les Vidovich, executive manager technical services of the Laverton Shire, says the 40 km road will be a “formed type three road, starting with a formed road”.
The Alice Springs News Online has repeatedly reported on the subject, and more recently started asking questions again on November 8 last year when reader Patsy Hickey commented: “Cost of the NT portion is twice the price? Requires an explanation!”
We’ve had no answers from the NT Government.
PHOTOS: Wildflowers along the Outback Way. • The grader at Giles weather station of the legendary surveyor, Len Beadell.
UPDATE 12:15pm
We are very aware of this matter but there are a lot of variables and we want to foster our relationship with the NT Department. The department does a terrific job with the process they work!
The current investment strategy has NT at $850,000/km 8m seal, WA at $580,000/km 8m seal  (the Shire has costed the current work at $275,000 due to the current section having formation work previously completed) and Qld at $383,000/km (7m seal).
Queensland and WA local governments which are responsible for sealing the gravel section of the Outback Way are naturally more nimble, with direct project management, their own core crews, contracting with day rates – they can manage costs and deliver value for money.
The NT Roads are contracted as no regional council has equipment or capacity to carry out road works, besides minor repairs in more remote places. The department has a procurement process which has been established by former governments and the NT Department are implementing existing policy through this process.
Helen Lewis
General Manager, Outback  Way


  1. Could a major contributing cost be the deplorable condition of the existing road between Yulara and the border?
    Every time I have traveled this horror stretch of road bits of me fall off, let alone bits of the vehicle.
    It is crap, it always has been crap even immediately after somebody has graded it.
    Spend the bloody money but do a decent job of it!
    It’s that simple.

  2. Some NT tradies get paid more than some doctors! Other states’ tradies get paid peanuts compared to them, that’s what is eating your money away.
    Import some SA companies to do the work and make the greedy NT companies charge reasonable amounts.
    In the last 15 to 20 years some NT tradie rates have tripled. I’m yet to hear a legitimate reason for this.

  3. Perhaps a major contributing cost to the deplorable condition of the existing road between Yulara and the border is that it is NOT part of the public highway.
    The Commonwealth’s land rights act needs be amended to enable the NT Government reclaim land required for public roads, the same as other states, with just compensation determined and paid.
    It is financial and political irresponsibility for NTG to pay for construction of privately owned roads and housing.
    The failure of the Commonwealth to enable such resumptions contributes significantly to deplorable conditions.
    These wealthy private corporate landlords need spend their own money, not milk public funds.
    The failure to eliminate such a rort contributes to the Commonwealth’s reputation as a government committed to promoting racism and inequality.

  4. @ Fred the Philistine: Slavery has been abolished for some time now and chain gangs, although they make great American television, aren’t really an answer.

  5. Things in the NT always seem to be dearer. I believe the the Alice Springs council does have the equipment but do not have experience. Cheaper to get contractors from interstate.
    The council cannot even lay foot paths properly. If this is the case, why are council rates so expensive in Alice Springs? The council seem to do very little.
    Other regional councils around Australia all have the equipment and the knowledge to do their own roads.
    I believe contractors in the NT take advantage of the contracts on offer to get rich.

  6. We have laughed for years about quotes and tenders in NT.
    Pick a dollar number and double it.
    Gubment will pay it LOL.
    Too bad for the battler in town, pay inflated rates or find some one else.

  7. In regards to getting the Outback Way sealed between Harts Range and the NT/QLD border: What if the NT Government gets Boulia Shire to do some of the QLD section at 8m wide and then get the Laverton Shire to do some of the work between the WA border and the Olgas?
    That would probably be cheaper even if they were to charge a little bit more for going over the border.

  8. It costs what it costs. Just build and complete these things. That really should have been done many years ago!


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