Echuca Moama Bridge Press Conference

Jacinta Allan: Well it's great to be here today on the banks of the Murray River to mark a big and important milestone and announcement for the local community and I'm very pleased to be joined with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure Michael McCormack; our New South Wales state colleague Paul Toole and also here as proud and happy local members, Peter Walsh, Member for Murray Plains, and Sussan Ley, the Member for Farrer, in the Federal Parliament.

We've also got a number of other people here today because we're really pleased to be announcing that we- the contract has been awarded; the federal and state governments have agreed on funding and delivering stage three of the Echuca Moama project. And this is the big heart of the Echuca Moama project; it involves the construction of two bridges over the Campaspe and Murray River; it also involves the construction of shared walking and cycling paths. But most importantly, after quite a period of time, it delivers that much needed second river crossing for the local community and it's a project that's being delivered in partnership with three levels of government.

We all want to have a say about this project today and there is a lot to say about this project. What I wanted to add to the voices here is that the Victorian Government is really pleased to partner with the Federal Government and the New South Wales Government on delivering this project as part of our big investment in transport infrastructure right across Victoria. And this is indeed, the largest project we've got underway here in northern Victoria, and it is a big project when you consider that there are around 25,000 vehicles a day that use the existing river crossing, we need to take the pressure off that and we need to plan for the future which is what this project is all about.

I just want to finish by thanking and acknowledging the local community for their ongoing work and support in making sure that the three levels of government get on and deliver this project. Also, I see here today we have Mal Kersting, who's the recently retired VicRoads Director, who this project was one of his babies for a very, very long time. He's worked extensively with the local community over many years to get us to this point; so it's great that Mal's here today. I think he's here today to really make sure we get on and deliver this project and we're absolutely delighted to say that that's exactly what we're doing with the announcement today of both the contract award and the delivery timeframes for this important project. Michael, shall I hand over to you.

Michael McCormack: Well thank you very much, Jacinta, McConnell Dowell constructors - a very happy company because they've been awarded the contract for this important, important nation building infrastructure. This isn't just about Echuca Moama; this isn't just about Victoria and New South Wales; this is indeed about our nation continuing to build the infrastructure that our nation expects and needs and wants and most of all deserves. This is going to create hundreds of jobs. It's more importantly going to ease the pressure off the 140-year-old bridge.

And of course, today is the day when locals breathe a big sense and sigh of relief because they know that we're getting on with the job and people expect state and federal governments to work together and we are doing that collaboratively; we're doing it cooperatively. Very pleased to be here with Jacinta Allan and Paul Toole to make this important announcement; to make this important announcement as far as the contribution for each level of government to make this important announcement about the jobs that are going to be created in the build; the freight efficiencies that are going to be created as a result of this construction and to let locals know that yes, we do indeed care. All levels of government care about the fact that this has been waited for for many decades and now we're getting on and building it. Delighted to be here with Sussan Ley; delighted to be here with Peter Walsh. They know, as local members, just how important this project is. And with that I'll hand over to Paul Toole.

Paul Toole: Thank you Michael. Firstly, can I acknowledge all of our dignitaries that are here today as well. Firstly, can I just say what a fantastic project that is going to be in construction. This is a project that shows the collaboration between the Federal Government, the Victorian Government, and the New South Wales Government. And the Deputy Prime Minister is right, this is actually about building big infrastructure in this country that is important for not only locals but also when it comes to driving our local economies and also improving efficiency and safety on our roads. You have a look at the trucks that use the current bridge at the moment, 1500 heavy vehicles each and every day use that crossing. A second crossing is going to provide greater opportunities to drive the economy more and to see more vehicles travelling across it but also makes it safer for our locals.

Now, this project has had a number of stages. We do know that there is a stage four to actually be announced and that will be announced very shortly and that will actually include intersection work on the Cobb Highway between the Meninya crossing and also the Perricoota Road. So we're pretty excited that in the coming weeks, very shortly we'll be able to announce that stage of the project as well.

Peter Walsh: Good morning everyone. As the local member, can I just particularly think both the state and the federal ministers for being here and the announcement. I know Echuca has been waiting a long time for this announcement to be made. The team’s been doing a great job on at Warren Street. They’re ready to go on the next stage. So this- if you think about this weekend, with the Ute Muster, Deni Ute Muster, the field days, long weekend in New South Wales, it's probably the weekend that puts the most pressure on the roads through here and on the bridge. A five kilometre bank up coming back from the Deni Ute Muster a couple of years ago. When this bridge is built, it'll be great to get all that traffic out of the town and people can just travel through.
But thank you guys for coming along, making an announcement. I know there'll be some local contractors who’d be very happy with the syndicate that's got it; probably some local contractors that won't be quite so happy with the syndicate that got it. But the work will be done. That's what we need. Thank you.

Sussan Ley: There's not much more for me to add. Michael, can I thank you as Deputy Prime Minister for your leadership when it comes to infrastructure builds across rural and regional Australia and that certainly includes my electorate of Farrer just on the other side of the river. It's good to be here with Minister Paul Toole from New South Wales, flying the cross border flag, because this is about uniting two communities; $318 million of spend on really a Rolls Royce, gold class bridge to look after these two communities – both of which are growing. I think, Peter, we're running out of room in Echuca so people are finding the magic of New South Wales…

[Laughter]

…as they build on the north side.

[Laughter]

Whereas once it was sort of Echuca with Moama, it's now very much two twin almost cities in this vital part of rural and regional Australia.

So, a great day to celebrate. We're all looking forward to this. We can see that it's happening. A shout out to Major Roads Project Victoria for their strong work and their attention to detail and the timeliness with which they're approaching the delivery of this project. It's really, really good to see. Thank you very much.

[Applause]

Michael McCormack: Any questions?

Journalist: Yeah. A few questions please.

Unidentified Speaker: Yeah. Who do you want to go for?

[Laughter]

Journalist: The Deputy Prime Minister, whoever wants to answer it. Whoever has an answer for me will work. How much does stage three cost?

Michael McCormack: Well, federal contribution is $28.7 million and I know the federal contribution to the entire project is now up to $125.7 million. But I might get my colleagues to - there’s $323 million all up, yeah.

Journalist: Is the entire project?

Michael McCormack: That’s the entire project – stages 1 through to 4.

Journalist: And you mentioned the federal contribution to stage 3. But does stage 3 cost more than the federal contribution.

Jacinta Allan: We’ll get you a breakdown.

Michael McCormack: We'll get you a breakdown [indistinct] media release.

Jacinta Allan: Yes.

Journalist: My other question was: so, you mentioned the locals for decades have been asking for this second bridge. So, what's taking so long?

Michael McCormack: Well obviously, you have to have the right planning and obviously, you have to have the right business ratio [the river boat named “Canberra” cruises past and toots horn].

Jacinta Allan: It is Canberra?

Michael McCormack: The answer to that question is not Canberra.

[Laughter]

But these things take a while. I mean, we're also obviously on a $100 billion federal infrastructure spend and I know the Victorian Government is also spending a considerable amount of money on infrastructure. I say: good on them for doing that. I know the New South Wales Government at the moment, their spending over the next four years is $94 billion. We are in the age of infrastructure and so we're getting on with projects that, yes, have been demanded for many, many years. Tomorrow, I'm going to be very much looking forward to spending the day with Sussan Ley at Carrathool, where they're opening a bridge which has taken 70 years to build.

So, irrespective of what's happened in the past, we're getting on with it right now. You've got people from different political parties. You've got the Liberal Party represented here. You've got the Labor Party here represented and you've also got the National Party. That's what people, I think, want and expect: political parties of different backgrounds, different persuasions, working together to build a better Australia, to build a better future. Now, this bridge is not only here for the here and now, it's also for the future because it's going to be designed in such a way that in the future, if the demand requires it, if the business case stacks up, and as we see, Echuca and Moama grow, as we see more tourists and more industry and more business coming to this area, there will be the ability to tack on, to add onto it and to expand this bridge. So, that's building not only for the here and now, but building for the future and I think that's what people expect and that's what they're getting.

Journalist: Beautiful. Maybe a local minister to speak a little bit more about the bridge.

Journalist: Just quickly – estimated completion date?

Michael McCormack: 2022.

Journalist: Deputy Prime Minister, sorry. Can I ask you…

Michael McCormack: Yeah, sure.

Journalist: Do you have an outlay of from stage 2 to 3 to 4, some timeline, dates and sort of costings?

Michael McCormack: Jacinta, do you want to just [indistinct].

Jacinta Allan: [Talks over] Well I'll have a crack at that. And Allen, who's here for Major Roads Projects, can correct me in terms of any of the dates. So, stage 1 was completed in the middle of last year and Peter can also validate that, and stage 2 is due to be completed towards the end of this year. So we'll be ramping up on stage 3 as stage 2 winds down. And as Paul has indicated before, he's looking at, very soon, making some further details available on how stage 4 will be done on the New South Wales side of the river. So we can see that by the end of 2022 - because it's a big and complicated job - it's expected to take up to three years to do this work, that we’ll see this project completed.

Journalist: Okay. So that's the project, not Stage 3, 2022.

Jacinta Allan: That's all of it. I can't speak for New South Wales but yes. Yeah. Is that helpful?

Journalist: Yes.