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Walkaway homes to be spared Geraldton bypass but other landowners may now be in its path

An unexpected change in the State Government’s preferred route for a contentious heavy haulage bypass through the Mid West has been met with mixed responses from the community.

The changes are expected to save at least six homes which would have been affected under the previous plan for the Dongara-Geraldton-Northampton route, but it is not yet clear how many new landowners will be caught up in the revised proposal.

Property owners in and around Walkaway and Moonyoonooka were in uproar when in 2020 it was revealed the State’s preferred route would cut through their land, some of which had been in their family’s possession for generations.

Concerns were also also raised over poor communication between Main Roads and landowners and the impact the route would have on access to community services such as the Walkaway Pony Club.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti announced on Wednesday a new corridor for the southern section of the future route had been chosen.

The route will now deviate further east, avoiding properties and homes along Arthur Road before reconnecting with the previous alignment at Moonyoonooka.

No changes have been made to the proposed corridor north of Moonyoonooka and south of Mt Horner Road West, with this section of the route to be prioritized.

Ms Saffioti said more work was needed to confirm the final southern route alignment, but the new plan would mean less properties outside of Moonyoonooka would be affected.

“The number of dwellings south of Moonyoonooka within the investigation corridor has reduced significantly from 10 to four,” she said.

“The new proposal will see the route deviate eastwards around the main Walkaway town site before reconnecting with the previous alignment at Moonyoonooka, reducing impacts on homes and addressing access and severity concerns raised by the Walkaway community.”

Discussions between the current owner of the Moonyoonooka Store and Main Roads are ongoing, with a map indicating the proposed corridor would go through the 100-year-old icon.

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said more clarity was needed on how the amended route would affect landowners.

“We are yet to fully understand the impacts (of the bypass) on Moonyoonooka. Some of the concerns of Walkaway have been eased, but we haven’t had a chance to speak to the landowners affected there,” he said.

“It is a 500m-wide corridor to choose a 100m road reserve, so there may be people on the map who look like they will be affected but won’t be.”

Mr Van Styn welcomed the prioritization of the northern section of the route but said he was concerned with construction on the southern section could be decades away.

“No works are scheduled to start until at least 2035… Does that mean the design works don’t start until 2035? Because laying the route could take a decade,” he said.

“Putting out a project of this scale with such long timeframes means that the Geraldton inner bypass and the North West Coastal Highway upgrades, which have been long-planned and long-talked about, would also be pushed back.”

Moore MLA Shane Love said the announcement of the new route might have come as a shock to property owners who were not previously in the investigation corridor but who now would be affected by the development.

“If there is less impact on landowners that is good, but we need to make sure that the people on the new route are well-looked after in terms of any compensation,” he said.

No funding has been allocated to the construction of the route and Mr Love said the State Government needed to make securing cash for the project a priority.

“Really, this whole matter should now proceed to try to get funding to actually begin the project. People in the northern side (of the proposed route) have been waiting for a very long time with imposition on their land and no road and no development,” he said.

“We need to commit to the road. Don’t leave people with a blight on their property for generations, like it has happened elsewhere in the area.”

Once a final preferred corridor has been finalized and approved by the State Government, Main Roads will include the route in strategic statutory planning documentation to give landowners greater certainty.

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