The Australian Government’s $600 million Northern Australia Roads Program (NARP) will include upgrades to the Plenty Highway in outback Australia, increasing its safety during periods of poor weather and major flooding.

The contract for construction of the first package of works has been awarded to Exact Contracting Pty Ltd for $12.6 million and includes approximately 20km of sealing and flood resilience works on a priority section of the highway.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Michael McCormack said the Government’s investment through the NARP was specifically targeting high-priority roads essential to the movement of people and freight in order to support the North’s development.

“The works will provide flood resilience and reduce the need for vehicle weight restrictions and road closure after heavy rainfall, which will give cattle producers in the area confidence they can transport their cattle to market efficiently,” Mr McCormack said.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion said the upgrading and sealing of nearly 20km of the Plenty Highway showed that the Federal Government was committed to supporting the agricultural industry in northern Australia by improving connectivity and productivity.

“These upgrades, which are made possible thanks to up to $20 million from the Federal Government, will also reduce travel times thanks to an expected increase in average speeds through the upgraded section, while improvements to the road surface will reduce vehicle operating costs and the damage caused to cattle during transport,” Senator Scullion said.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matthew Canavan said that the funding approved for the Plenty Highway Upgrading project was part of the Australian Government’s $170 million commitment to the Outback Way that was enabling critical sealing, widening and flood immunity upgrades across the northern jurisdictions.

“The Outback Way plays a critical role in connecting industries to markets, and rural communities to essential services and economic opportunities, which is why we are continuing to invest in projects that will upgrade priority sections of the route in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia,” Senator Canavan said.

Northern Territory Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics Nicole Manison said the section would be constructed to a two lane sealed standard, which will improve road safety by providing a wider surface for overtaking and passing other vehicles.

“The works will provide a fully sealed connection between the community at Harts Range to the Stuart Highway and will also be raised to provide greater protection against flooding,” Ms Manison said.

The full project will be funded on an 80:20 basis with the Australian Government contributing up to $20 million and the Northern Territory Government contributing up to $5 million.

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