BLUE Duck Inn publican Mike Mullins has already noticed the difference.
A dead giveaway is the NSW registration plates on vehicles towing caravans and more motorbikes zipping through one of the most remote parts of the state.
The pub, operated for six years by Mr Mullins and his partner, Lana, sits at Anglers Rest, between Mitta and Omeo on Victoria’s first-gazetted highway.
The Omeo was a highway in name only less than two months ago.
Since then the final two sections of gravel road — 28 kilometres between Mitta and the former mining area of Glen Wills — has been sealed at a cost of $14.9 million.
And the Blue Duck Inn is already attracting more visitors.
“It is going to make a huge difference,” Mr Mullins said.
“We’ve definitely seen a lot more people from Albury coming this way.”
One downside is that a set of car tyres lasts only a year due to the winding nature of the road which links the North East and East Gippsland.
Mr Mullins and his partner took over the pub at the confluence of three mountain trout streams — the Cobungra, Bundara and Mitta rivers — at about the time when the stretch of road from Falls Creek to the Omeo Highway was sealed.
They are saving 20 minutes on the trips they make weekly to Albury for supplies.
They will also re-visit their decision to close the pub between the Queen’s Birthday weekend and early September, based on the re-sealing works.
The re-sealing job is the completion of an election promise made by the member for Benambra, Bill Tilley, who joined locals yesterday at The Walnuts, near Mitta, for a celebratory barbecue.
“Before the highway was sealed, motorists and riders were at greater risk and tourism in the area was being hampered by rental companies ruling out travel on unsealed roads,” Mr Tilley said.
“Now the Omeo Highway, and this beautiful part of the state, is accessible to all road users. This is a win for the community, visitors and industry.
“Not only is the highway now safer but it has improved north and south connectivity.”
Trees and vegetation have been removed or trimmed to improve visibility for drivers.
Culverts and drains have been repaired and extended and some narrow sections of road have been widened.