Truck claims a fallacy: Minister

19 Apr, 2006 08:45 PM
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AVON MLA Max Trenorden has claimed growers could be forced to cart illegal tonnages of fertiliser if government road assessments and seasonal truck permits were not organised by seeding time.

But Transport Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the road assessments had nothing to do with seasonal permits and were part of an ongoing consultation with local governments.

Mr Trenorden said ministerial mismanagement over the stateís cumbersome heavy haulage permit system threatened to delay seeding in Avon and other parts of the Wheatbelt.

He said a bottleneck in the road inspection process had delayed farmersí fertiliser and seed deliveries and frustrated farmers and transported in York could be forced into illegal midnight runs with vital fertiliser supplies.

ìSome Wheatbelt shires want many more of their roads to be inspected and assessed by the State Government for heavy haulage use,î Mr Trenorden said.

ìThere is already widespread anxiety among WA graingrowers as they prepare for the new season and Iím concerned theyíll be forced to contemplate breaking the law in order to get their fertiliser to the farm.î

But Ms MacTiernan said the road inspection issue had nothing to do with seasonal permits.

She said her department had written to local shires outlining a plan to reduce the need for farmers to access permits by getting shires to list the roads they wanted deemed acceptable for heavy truck use.

ìYork Shire requested approximately 260 extra roads to be assessed and that is obviously going to take some time,î Ms MacTiernan said.

ìThe local shire has to consult the ratepayers and residents and also work out whether the shire could manage the financial burden of maintaining the extra roads and the impact on ratepayers.

ìRequests for all these extra roads have probably come from changes to CBH bin systems and contractor changes.

ìThese extra requests can not just be shifted to the local community; we should follow every other state and implement a user-pays situation.

ìA particular group of operators, in this case farmers and transporters should pay for the benefit the use of those extra roads will give them.î

Ms MacTiernan said she and the department would not stand in the way of allowing new roads to be used, as long as the local community supported such a move.

ìBut it is ridiculous to suggest a total change from very few roads then to request 260 roads and want us to jump,î she said.

ìWe are looking at options to make permits renewable every three years instead of annually to save growers time and money.î

Mr Trenorden said the minister should grant a 90-day moratorium for permits on Wheatbelt roads for large rigs like B-doubles without the need for assessment.

But Main Roads heavy haulage public affairs coordinator Samantha Johnston said issuing permits without assessment put all road users at risk, including farmers and their loads.

Ms Johnston said nothing had changed in terms of farmersí access to permits, despite what Mr Trenorden had said.

ìMain Roads officers can usually organise you a permit within the same day if you get in early,î she said.

ìWe have a record of 97pc of seasonal permits being issued within 24 hours.î

Ms Johnston encouraged any growers with permit issues to contact their local Main Roads office.

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