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Planning of future transport infrastructure needed to support agriculture 07 Nov 2011

A report commissioned by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation has highlighted the value to agriculture of improving long term infrastructure planning.

Released today, the RIRDC report ‘Transport infrastructure for Australia’s agricultural needs’ found that planning for future agricultural infrastructure needs is essential. The report also identified that the current state of infrastructure is deficient in terms of funding, maintenance programs, planning coordination and data collection.

According to the report, the key characteristics of Australian agriculture that need to be taken into account in infrastructure planning processes are:

  • The reliance of agricultural transport on rural road systems.
  • A large and unpredictable seasonal variability in production volumes.
  • The need for efficient systems that minimise delay and avoid damage or loss of product.
  • The importance of links to international supply chains via ports.
  • Competition with the mining sector for some transport resources, such as some rural roads and at ports.
The involvement of multiple levels of government and shared responsibility for Australia’s infrastructure network have added to the challenges of keeping transport infrastructure adequately maintained.

“Responsibilities for transport infrastructure are spread across three levels of government and involve numerous agencies,” RIRDC’s Managing Director, Craig Burns said.

“There are also inconsistencies in transport regulations between the states - different weight limits for livestock transport vehicles is just one difficulty being faced.”
Infrastructure planning would benefit from improved information to assist in addressing knowledge gaps, both in terms of transport flows and the bottlenecks that exist in the system.

Mr Burns said more comprehensive and up to date data sets on freight movements would help in understanding transport requirements for the agriculture sector and the broader freight industry. The latest available statistics on road freight movements date back to 2001.

“The report found there is a very limited amount of data available on freight movements in Australia and particularly detailed data on the products being transported and the origin of the products,” Mr Burns said.

“It is currently difficult for policy makers to make informed decisions about agriculture’s future infrastructure needs without a clearer picture of what freight is being moved and to where.”

The ‘Transport infrastructure for Australia’s agricultural needs’ report can be downloaded for free from: www.rirdc.gov.au