We’re upgrading the Western Highway between Ballarat and Stawell to get you where you need to be sooner and safer.

News

Recommencement of Work along Western Highway

Work to upgrade approximately 12.5km of the Western Highway between Buangor and Ararat has been given the approval to recommence by the Federal Government.

The Victorian Government has worked with the Federal Government, the local community and Traditional Owner groups for many years to deliver this urgently needed safety upgrade.

There have been more than 100 crashes and 11 fatalities on the Western Highway between Ballarat and Stawell in recent years.

This project has overwhelming support from locals and will vastly improve safety along this stretch of the Western Highway

The project has undergone a rigorous planning process over several years, including a full independent Environment Effect Statement process.

The Cultural Heritage Management Plan for the upgrade has been approved by Martang Pty Ltd, in accordance with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 in October 2013. This plan includes measures for the protection and respectful management of 21 Aboriginal heritage places as part of the project.

We’ve been working with Traditional Owners, including Martang and Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, recognised Traditional Owner organisations that represent the interests of the Djab Wurrung people. We’ve been working actively and consistently to address concerns raised by the community.

In February this year, we significantly altered the design of the project to avoid two trees identified as significant by the members of the Aboriginal community. Additional design revisions made since will allow for a total of 15 trees which are of interest to members of the Aboriginal community to be retained.

We’ll will continue to work with the local community as we deliver this important project.

Western Highway project welcomes Eastern Maar support

13 MAY, 2019

We have welcomed the support of the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation for the revised route of the Western Highway Upgrade.

For more than a year, we have been working closely with the Eastern Maar to ensure that the Western Highway Upgrade delivers the best possible result for the whole community.

We have reached an agreement with the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation on which critical trees should be retained as well as important initiatives including protection of cultural heritage in western Victoria and the inclusion of more Aboriginal people in the Western Highway project.

Major Road Projects Victoria Director of Development and Performance Andrew Williams said this outcome recognises the Aboriginal community’s close relationship and spiritual association with the land.

“We’re making sure the Western Highway Upgrade is delivered in a way that respects the cultural values associated with the land and its Traditional Owners,” Mr Williams said.

“This is a project of national importance which is why we’ve worked extensively and respectfully with the Eastern Maar to reach agreement ensuring the Aboriginal community is at the forefront of what we do.”

“We’re continuing to work respectfully with the Djab Wurrung community, and with the support of the Eastern Maar, we’ll look to recommence work along the approved alignment of the Western Highway Upgrade.”

To date, we’ve been able to realign the roadworks to avoid the two trees initially identified by the community as culturally significant and, more recently, has been able to confirm a further 13 trees will be retained.

Representatives from our team, the Eastern Maar and the Djab Wurrung community have undertaken a walkthrough of the alignment to ensure, where possible, those trees identified as significant by the Aboriginal community are retained and protected during construction.

This builds upon the important work undertaken during the project’s planning stages to ensure Aboriginal heritage would be managed respectfully as part of the project’s Cultural Heritage Management Plan.

“The Western Highway is the main link between Melbourne and Adelaide and is the busiest undivided national highway in Australia – this upgrade will duplicate the road to improve safety for drivers,” Mr Williams said.

There have been 93 crashes on the Western Highway between Ballarat and Stawell since 2014, including 10 deaths and 50 serious injuries.

We are now awaiting the outcome of an application to the Department of the Environment and Energy regarding the Western Highway and we have informed the Department that works will not commence for another fortnight.

Overview

Planning is complete for the 12.5km duplication between Buangor and Ararat, that will add an extra lane in each direction.

The $157 million project will vastly improve safety for communities in Western Victoria and will provide a much-needed boost to the regional economy.

Work on this section is due to resume shortly.

Video - Western Highway project overview
Video - Fly through of the Buangor to Ararat section

Background

We’ve undertaken comprehensive planning and engagement with the local community on this section of the Western Highway duplication.

This includes an independent Environment Effects Statement (EES) process and completing a Cultural Heritage Management Plan which was approved in 2013, in accordance with the Aboriginal Heritage Act (2006).

Engagement with the Aboriginal community

We’ve worked closely with the Djab Wurrung community for several years, including Martang and Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation.

The Cultural Heritage Management Plan for the upgrade was approved by Martang in accordance with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 in 2013. This plan includes measures for the protection and respectful management of 21 Aboriginal heritage places as part of the project.

As part of our long-standing commitment to working with the Aboriginal community, in February 2019, we agreed to significantly alter the design of the project to avoid two trees identified by the Aboriginal community as being of significance. Additional design revisions made since will allow for a total of 15 trees which are of interest to members of the Aboriginal community to be retained.

We'll continue to work with the local community and the Traditional Owner organisations as we deliver this important project.

Environment Effects Statement

The alignment was determined after a comprehensive two-year Environment Effects Statement (EES) process.

The EES considered a number of alignments, including the current approved alignment and a duplication of the highway through the foothills of Mt Langi Ghiran State Park. It investigated the flora and fauna, land use, cultural heritage, traffic, noise quality and social impacts for each option.

Public exhibition and consultation were a significant part of the process with community views and potential impacts of the different alignment options considered.

A road that followed the existing highway was dismissed due to the potential environmental impact to Mt Langi Ghiran State Park.

Our engineers have also investigated this route and found it would not meet our design standards, our safety standards, would provide inferior access, would not be cheaper and importantly would not be accepted by the State Environment Department because of the potential environmental impact.

Current design

The approved alignment is the most environmentally and culturally respectful option that balances the needs of the community, with the need to improve safety for the 6000 people who use this road every day.

In February this year, we agreed to significantly alter the design of the project to avoid two trees identified by the Aboriginal community as being of significance. Additional design revisions made since will allow for a total of 15 trees which are of interest to members of the Aboriginal community to be retained.

More information about this section of the Western Highway project can be found in the below FAQs.

The slider shows the existing highway and why an upgraded highway along this route was dismissed due to the potential environmental impact to Mt Langi Ghiran State Park. (Select the vertical white line to move the slider from left to right).

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the latest with the Western Highway duplication?

We've welcomed the decision by the Federal Environment Minister which will allow construction on this important upgrade to the Western Highway to recommence.

We've been working with the Aboriginal community for several years, including Martang and Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation (EMAC), recognised Traditional Owner organisations that represent the interests of the Djab Wurrung people.

We’ll continue to work with interested parties throughout construction to ensure we deliver this important project for the community with cultural and environmental sensitivities in mind.

The Western Highway Duplication has overwhelming support from locals and will improve safety on this key connection for communities in Western Victoria. It will also provide a vital boost to the regional economy.

We've been working closely with EMAC for more than a year to ensure that the Western Highway Upgrade delivers the best possible result for the whole community.

We have reached an agreement with EMAC on which critical trees should be retained as well as important initiatives including protection of cultural heritage in western Victoria and the inclusion of more Aboriginal people in the Western Highway project.

Does the Aboriginal community support the road?

An Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation (EMAC) elder and senior custodian for the trees has stated, “I am very happy with the outcomes of the negotiations with the government. These trees are now protected and the road can go ahead.”

Representatives from the Eastern Maar community recently joined us on a walkthrough of the alignment to ensure, where possible, those trees identified as significant by the Aboriginal community are retained and protected during construction.

EMAC has also stated that it recognises the considerable efforts made by us to realign the roadworks to avoid the two trees initially identified by the community as culturally significant.

Download the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation statement. PDF, 64.4 KB

How many trees will be retained that are significant to the Aboriginal community?

To date, we've been able to realign the roadworks to avoid the two trees initially identified by the community as culturally significant and, more recently, has been able to confirm a further 13 trees will be retained.

Our team, the Eastern Maar and the Djab Wurrung community have done a walkthrough of the alignment to ensure, where possible, those trees identified as significant by members of the Aboriginal community are retained and protected during construction.

This builds upon the important work undertaken during the project’s planning stages to ensure Aboriginal heritage would be managed respectfully as part of the project’s Cultural Heritage Management Plan.

Why did you redesign the road?

The localised design changes announced in February 2019 will see the Western Highway slightly realigned at two locations.

This is so that the trees, one at Pope Road and the other at Warrayatkin Road, identified by the local Aboriginal community as significant can be retained.

Why was this alignment path chosen?

The 12.5km duplication of road between Buangor and Ararat was decided through a comprehensive two-year Environment Effects Statement (EES) process.

The EES considered several different options and undertook extensive investigations into the flora and fauna, land use, cultural heritage, traffic, noise quality and social impacts of each option.

Public consultation was a significant part of the process with community views and potential impacts of the different alignment options considered at every stage.

An Independent Panel appointed by Planning Panels Victoria, recommended the current alignment to the Minister for Planning. The Minister approved the alignment in 2013, because on balance, it had the lower environmental impact.

The approved alignment is the most environmentally and culturally respectful option that balances the needs of the community with the need to improve safety for the 6000 people who use this road every day.

What consultation has there been with the local Aboriginal community?

We’ve been working with the Aboriginal community for several years, including Martang Pty Ltd as well as the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, recognised Traditional Owner organisations that represent the interests of the Djab Wurrung people.

The Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) for the project was approved in accordance with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 in October 2013.

All the fieldwork and assessments for the CHMP were completed in 2012 and 2013. The CHMP meets our obligations under the Act.

In 2017, Aboriginal Victoria investigated two claims regarding trees of significance on the approved alignment. Aboriginal women were involved in the assessment and after consultation with these women, Aboriginal Victoria dismissed the claims.

The statement from Aboriginal Victoria can be found on the Department of Premier and Cabinet's website.

However, we understand this is a culturally sensitive issue and following concerns raised by the Aboriginal community we redesigned the road, so these two trees could be retained. Further design refinements will allow for a total of 15 trees which are of interest to members of the Aboriginal community to be retained.

We are continuing to work with Aboriginal groups at each stage of the project.

What consultation was undertaken with stakeholders and the local community?

The duplication alignment between Buangor and Ararat was determined through a comprehensive two-year Environment Effects Statement (EES) in 2012 and 2013.

The EES considered several alignments including the current approved alignment and a duplication of the highway in its existing location.

We undertook extensive investigations into the flora and fauna, land use, cultural heritage, traffic, noise quality and social impacts for each option.

Public consultation and sharing of the design was a significant part of the process and community feedback and potential impacts of the different alignment options were considered at every stage of the process.

Since that time, we have continued to consult with the local community, and key stakeholders to reduce and minimise our impact on the environment and the traditional owners.

What about a route closer to the existing Western Highway (through the foothills of the Mt Langi Ghiran State Park)?

A route closer to the existing Western Highway (northern route) was dismissed for a range of reasons.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment (now DELWP) made a submission to the independent Environment Effects Statement (EES) Panel indicating it would not support a road that followed the existing highway due to the potential environmental impact to Mt Langi Ghiran State Park.

This route would also impact one of the trees which the Aboriginal community have identified as significant.

In response to some concerns from members of the community, we also investigated the route and found it would not only have greater impact on the environment but could not be built to the current safety requirements required for a national highway.

If we were to build a freeway standard road which followed the existing Western Highway to meet the safety requirements, we’d impact twice as many trees as the current alignment and have double the impact on the sensitive environment surrounding the Mt Langi Ghiran State Park foothills.

How many trees are you removing, is the route closer to the existing Western Highway better?

The approved alignment will retain approximately 5000 trees by avoiding the Mt Langi Ghiran State park foothills.

We estimate a 'northern route' (the one closer to the Western Highway) will affect approximately 8000 trees, in comparison the approved alignment will affect about 3000 trees.

Are you saving the two trees identified as significant by the Aboriginal community with a new realignment?

Yes, we have redesigned the road to avoid the two trees identified as significant to the Aboriginal community - one at Warrayatkin Road and the other at Pope Road.

The localised design changes announced in February 2019 will see the Western Highway slightly realigned at two locations.

Further design refinements will allow for a total of 15 trees which are of interest to members of the Aboriginal community to be retained.

Why weren’t the two trees, identified as significant by the Aboriginal community considered when designing the project in the first place?

An extensive cultural heritage study was undertaken with the relevant Registered Aboriginal Party during the planning stage and these trees were not identified as culturally significant.

Subsequently Aboriginal Victoria twice investigated claims of these trees being culturally significant and found we were able to continue work on the approved alignment.

A statement from Aboriginal Victoria can be found on the Department of Premier and Cabinet's website.

Following further consultation and discussions once detailed design works commenced managed to avoid these trees.

Have the current Victorian treaty negotiations been taken into consideration?

We understand this project is a matter of cultural sensitivity and that is why we are working with the relevant Aboriginal groups towards a solution.

Why is the duplication needed?

The Western Highway is the major road link between Melbourne and Adelaide. Farming, grain production, regional tourism and a range of manufacturing services rely heavily on this highway.

More than 6000 vehicles travel the Western Highway, west of Ballarat each day, including 1500 trucks with this traffic expected to double by 2025.

We’ve been upgrading the highway between Burrumbeet and Stawell since 2013 and have duplicated 55km of highway between Ballarat and Buangor.

The safety of the travelling public is our priority. There have been more than 100 crashes and 11 fatalities on the Western Highway between Ballarat and Stawell in recent years. The duplication of the highway will vastly improve safety for people in Victoria’s west.

Duplicating the highway has proven to reduce the number of accidents.

We also need to support our regional community, and this duplication will improve journey reliability and safety for those travelling to Ballarat and Melbourne for medical services, social and leisure activities.

What has been happening during the time since work was meant to start?

We were due to start major construction in June 2018 but as a result of protesters on the site we were prevented from starting work.

An application was lodged by protesters with the Federal Government for an emergency protection declaration under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act, and we agreed to pause work until the outcome of this had been decided.

During that time, we made a submission to the Federal Government detailing the comprehensive work we’d undertaken as part of the planning process, Cultural Heritage Management Plan and our work with key stakeholders.

We received the outcome from the Federal Government in July 2019, that stated there would be no emergency protection declaration required on the area.

We have also been working on the localised design changes to retain the two trees that the Aboriginal community has identified as significant, which we announced in February. Further refinements mean we have been able to avoid a total of 15 trees identified as significant by the Aboriginal community.

The previous completion date was 2020. What is the new completion date?

The 2020 completion date has now shifted in line with the delay to starting works.

We're now working towards completion in early 2022 – we’ll start work as soon as we’re able to minimise any further delays.

Project benefits - Fact sheet

Choosing the project alignment - Fact sheet

Map showing the stages and locations of the upgrades to the Western Highway

Western Highway project overview map.

View a larger version of the map (PDF, 276.2 KB)

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