The Victorian Government is investing $1.4 billion to implement Towards Zero, a plan to achieve fewer than 200 deaths by 2020 and reduce serious injuries by 15% on Victoria’s roads.


The Pyrenees Highway connects communities from Ararat through Avoca, Maryborough and Castlemaine to Elphinstone. The road carries approximately 6,500 vehicles per day through Mount Alexander Shire between Newstead and Castlemaine. 

Between 2009 and 2013, there were five run-off road crashes including one fatality on the Pyrenees Highway. This project has been designed to reduce the risk and severity of crashes where drivers run off the road and hit hazards like trees and steep drop offs. 

Due to these circumstances the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) granted funding in the 2015-16 financial year and we commenced planning towards improving this road for commuters and residents.


Safety works include: 

  • Installation of 23 flexible safety barriers and guard fences.
  • Sealing of road shoulders at various locations. 
  • Sealing of parts of intersections at various locations.
  • Removal of, or protection from, roadside hazards such as trees, culverts and drop-offs.

The project involved the removal of 142 trees to ensure roadside hazards are no longer present and to provide better sight lines.

The environmental assessment identified species that could be impacted by the works including the Swift Parrot and Box Ironbark trees. Some of the species identified are protected by federal legislation and a referral was made to the Australian Government in late 2016. The Australian Government reviewed the case and approved the removal of the trees. 

To comply with the approval conditions, work commenced in March 2019. This allowed us to avoid the migration period of the Swift Parrot and reduce risk to the species while allowing for transfer of vegetation to the nearby bushland reserve.

Tree species included a combination of grey, yellow and red box gum and one red river gum. The trees differed in size and included:

  • 7 large mature trees 
  • 1 dead large old tree
  • 8 medium trees
  • 126 small trees including six dead. 

No scar trees or other vegetation of cultural significance were affected.

Approval from the Australian Government under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act requires us to publish environmental management plans for the project.

View this EPBC document for more information


  • Improved safety for all road users
  • Wider sealed road
  • Reduced likelihood of serious injury if an accident was to occur
  • Removal of, protection from, hazards close to the road
  • Improved safety through sealing of bell mouths at intersections.

Have a say

A public consultation meeting was held in Newstead in March 2016 to present information on the need for safety barrier works and details of the project. Residents, community groups, Landcare Newstead and Mount Alexander Shire Council staff were all invited to attend. Feedback from this meeting was considered in the final design of the project and specific requests for follow up correspondence were addressed. 

\Works were expected to commence in December 2017, however, the Australian Government referral process was enacted which can be a 12 to 24 months process. As part of the process, our application was required to be advertised and available for public comment for 20 business days. We published public notices in The Age and Castlemaine Mail newspapers in September 2017 to invite public comment.

We held a community drop-in session in January 2019 to update the community on the project. We explained:

  • federal and state environmental processes 
  • details of the approval condition
  • how we are mitigating risk to local flora and fauna 
  • the details of the upcoming works.

Read the Information update January 2019 [PDF 537 Kb]

Get in touch 

If you’d like to know more about the project, please get in touch.