A DELAYED Ballarat road project is set to take a small step forward after it was put out to tender yesterday, however construction is still unlikely to meet its deadline.
Construction of the first stage of the Ballarat West Link Road, one of the region’s biggest projects, has been plagued by delays including potential impact on indigenous sacred sites.
Negotiations are still taking place between the City of Ballarat and Wathaurung Aboriginal Co-operative, even after a mediation agreement at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in November 2013.
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine yesterday announced tenders were open to build a 1.7km stage of the road, despite the original promised project being 4.2km in length.
This section is expected to link Learmonth Road and the Ballarat West Employment Zone.
It was originally expected the entire 4.2km project would be finished by November this year, but Minister for Roads Terry Mulder told The Courier only the 1.7km section would be completed by the end of the year.
“We are taking a pragmatic approach to deliver this project,” he said.
“The remaining 2.5km section of the project will begin once all statutory and planning approvals are finalised.
“This has taken longer than expected due to site investigations uncovering additional indigenous artefacts.
“The City of Ballarat is working with the Wathaurung Aboriginal Co-operative to develop an alternative alignment and planning activities that will include identifying any sensitive sites.”
City of Ballarat chief executive Anthony Schinck said negotiations were positive and he expected the rest of the project would continue as planned.
“All of the parties are pretty happy,” he said.
“Realistically we are very pleased it has got to tender.
“I don’t expect them (the negotiations) to go sour, given where we have got to date.”
When The Courier first revealed the delays last year, Mr Schinck said it was “unlikely” the project would meet its deadline.
Mr Schinck also said the announcement was important in making the Ballarat West Employment Zone a viable project.
Wathaurung Aboriginal Co-operative chairman Bryon Powell said the first stage had been approved during negotiations in anticipation of the next section being approved in the future.
Opposition roads spokesman Luke Donnellan said it was a slap in the face for the Ballarat community by the Napthine government.
“To promise 4.2 kilometres worth of road towards the Western Road Link and to only deliver 1.7km is insulting,” he said.
Tenders will close in five weeks, with a contract to be awarded in April.