An apple tree fruits as Princes Highway duplication stalls

Gippsland South MLA Danny OBrien with fruiting apple tree on a section of the Princes Highway set aside for duplication a decade ago.
Gippsland South MLA Danny OBrien with fruiting apple tree on a section of the Princes Highway set aside for duplication a decade ago.

THE state government has been dragging its heels for so long on the Princes Highway duplication between Traralgon and Sale that it seems Mother Nature has taken over.

An apple tree is now growing and producing fruit in an area that was previously farmland, fenced off in readiness for the unfinished duplication.

Gippsland South MLA Danny O'Brien said he noticed the tree growing near Kilmany recently, and thought it exemplified the wait the region has endured for this funding.

"This tree is on vacant roadside land set aside for new lanes on the highway, and has grown wild since the fence line and power poles were moved several years ago to make way for the duplication," he said.

"Bear in mind that as part of the so-called 'Big Build' there are numerous multibillion-dollar projects being developed in the city.

"Indeed, the cost blow-outs alone on projects like the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, Westgate Tunnel and the North East Link are many times larger than that needed for the Princes Highway duplication.

"This project has been going for over 10 years now and, until state Labor came to power, had bipartisan support at both state and federal levels.

"Daniel Andrews claims to govern for all Victorians, but it seems yet again that his Victoria ends at Pakenham."

Mr O'Brien said he was tempted to harvest some of the apples on the tree and send them to Mr Andrews "as a reminder of his failure to upgrade the roads in our region".

There are two stages left of the Princes Highway duplication between Traralgon and Sale, with 11 in total. The federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications website lists the sections at Flynn and Kilmany, totalling about 12.1 kilometres, as yet to be completed.

The state government's 'Big Build' website claims "all nine sections are complete".

The federal government has had $132 million on the table for the past two budgets - 80 per cent of the remaining cost.

The state government still needs to commit $32 million to complete the job.

Last year, the Gippsland Times published an April Fool's Day article, reporting that farmers had grown so tired of waiting for the duplication work to be completed that they had got to work on the project themselves using agricultural machinery.

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