Fix It Now: Bega Cheese backs highway campaign

Bega Cheese is throwing its considerable weight behind Fairfax Media’s campaign pushing for significant safety improvements to the Princes Hwy.

The FIX IT NOW campaign, launched across South Coast newspapers in March, is gaining plenty of traction in all the right areas, with NRMA backing as well as a direct appeal for funds to the Deputy Prime Minister from Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis this week.

On Wednesday, Bega Cheese added its name to that list, with the company’s group transport manager, Michael Lamperd, saying Bega Cheese was “very supportive” of the campaign and keen to “be part of the conversation”.

“We’re all about efficiencies – if we can improve efficiency in any area it will benefit everyone,” Mr Lamperd said.

“And rather than sitting back and waiting for something to happen, we prefer to be part of the conversation.”

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Mr Lamperd said Bega Cheese has been a standing member of South East Australian Transport Strategy (SEATS) for a number of years – one of only a handful of industry voices joining the, for the most part, councils and government representatives.

He said while the federal government had done “a great job” on the Pacific Hwy, he “totally agrees” that it should now commit to the same arrangement for the Princes Hwy south of Nowra.

“Even if that means starting in one area and working south, or north, in stages, we’d be interested in providing whatever assistance we could, including information on freight movements along the highway,” Mr Lamperd said.

Bega Cheese said it remains committed to its operations in regional areas including Bega on the NSW Far South Coast and Tatura in Victoria. But that comes with the necessity of transport along regional roads, the Princes Hwy being an essential route.

Mr Lamperd said the companies that truck Bega Cheese product up and down Australia’s east coast – mainly Bobbins and Reeves – face challenges including pinch points on the Brogo and Narooma bridges, and even a stop sign at a T-junction in Pambula where the state highway has to give way to local traffic.

On the Far South Coast there are still several areas that do not permit B-doubles, while Mr Lamperd said there is also the potential for even relatively minor incidents to completely block traffic on the vital, but single-carriageway, highway and freight corridor.

“If we could run B-doubles right through, it would mean fewer trucks on the roads, but more stock,” he said.

“The newer style vehicles especially are also better suited to roads, doing less damage.

“It would also result in fewer emissions so there’s an environmental benefit on top of the benefits to the public [motorists].”

To those ends, Mr Lamperd said Bega Cheese was right behind the FIX IT NOW call for a separated highway from Nowra to the border along with other significant safety improvements.

FIX IT NOW is calling for the Princes Hwy to be classified as a road of national significance and for the federal and state governments to commit to an 80/20 funding split for essential upgrades and safety improvements over its southern sections.

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