16 February 2024

Letter from the Editor: It’s time to seal the Cape’s success with PDR completion

| Lyndon Keane
Join the conversation

Sealing the Peninsula Developmental Road has again been highlighted as a priority in Regional Development Australia Tropical North’s latest economic development strategy, but is the colossal ambition any closer to becoming a reality? Photo: Lyndon Keane.

If candidates throwing their hat in the ring for the upcoming council and Queensland general elections want a quick gauge of community sentiment on what the major hot button issue is likely to be, I’ve got a tip for them: all roads lead to the Peninsula Developmental Road (PDR) finally being sealed.

Talk about the much-maligned road has been on everyone’s lips this week, from frustrated business owners to aspiring politicians, and from truckies sick of having their fillings rattled out to a South Australian mate peppering me with questions about what to expect on his maiden Cape York road trip later this year.

In fact, if I had a dollar for every time the PDR had been mentioned to me over the past seven days, I’d be writing this editorial from a yacht moored somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico.

The figures around the PDR are not hard to comprehend.

About 515 kilometres from Laura to Weipa, half of which remains unsealed and completely impassable during the wet season, and not much more user friendly in a busy dry season.

READ ALSO Bloody tough: Cape York truck drivers slam state of PDR

Four stages have been identified as part of the Cape York Region Package, a joint State and Federal Government program that will seal the PDR and upgrade critical bridge infrastructure, like the long-awaited one spanning the Archer River.

A staggering $513.5 million has been spent on the first two stages, and you have to suspect the bean counters in Brisbane and Canberra will be sitting down with paramedics on standby when they cost stages three and four.

The political will to hasten a solution is less easy to get your head around.

There’s not a lot of political bang for buck in making the adult, united decision to just spend the money and get the job done, irrespective of which party holds power at the state or federal level.

The PDR takes in just one federal electorate and one state electorate – Leichhardt and Cook – which, in layman’s terms, means it makes more political sense to allocate money to more populated areas, with more electorates, to help win elections.

Politicians will say it’s not so, but governments are not claimed in most cases by swaying voters in single seats thousands of kilometres away from those holding the public purse strings.

That’s not to say we haven’t had some impassioned political advocacy to seal the PDR – Warren Entsch has been an outspoken champion for why the project needs to be completed, but he is also a pragmatist who understands a single voice echoing from one of the remotest parts of the country often gets drowned out in the screaming match that is the Canberra bubble.

READ ALSO Budget blowout: Govt admits geotech error at Archer River bridge site

Yes, it is going to cost a fortune to seal the remaining parts of the PDR that turn into a horizon of thick red soup at about this time every year – no one’s pretending there won’t be an eye-watering price tag involved.

But has anyone taken the time to cost the social, financial and emotional burden Cape York residents have to bear every year due to having their only road link to the big smoke completely unusable once it’s had decent rain on it?

If the PDR was a road connecting some of our larger regional centres to capital cities, we’d already be celebrating how expeditiously the work had been completed.

Our elected leaders have to patch the political tyre and just get the remaining 250km of PDR sealed.

It has gone beyond being a matter of money, or a handy barb when criticising your political opponents: completing the PDR seal is literally the difference between Cape York’s infrastructure backbone becoming a pathway to economic and social success, or remaining a corrugated, dusty road to nowhere.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Cape York Weekly

Subscribe to get the latest edition of Cape York Weekly in your inbox each Monday.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Cape York Weekly's terms and conditions and privacy policy.