Pacific Highway Upgrade
|About this Item||Subjects||Nationals: New South Wales; Roads: Pacific Highway
||Speakers||Fraser Mr Andrew; Newell Mr Neville
||Business||Private Members Statements
||Commentary|| Pacific Highway Safety Summit
Mr ANDREW FRASER (Coffs Harbour) [11.07 a.m.]: I inform the House of the highly successful Pacific Highway Safety Summit that was held in Coffs Harbour on Monday, which I attended, along with the honourable member for Myall Lakes, the Leader of The Nationals, the Hon. Melinda Pavey, the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner, the honourable member for Clarence, the honourable member for Ballina and the local mayors. The summit highlighted safety issues with respect to the Pacific Highway. Despite claims by the Minister in a press release that the summit was merely a political stunt, that was not the case. The honourable member for Tweed would agree that the number of deaths and injuries occurring on the Pacific Highway is a matter for considerable concern.
The summit noted that, perhaps because of the geographics of the area, the cost of the upgrade has blown out by $1 billion since the program commenced and deaths continue to occur on those sections of the highway that do not have a dual carriageway. An amount of $280 million has been allocated in the budget estimates for an upgrade of the highway from Sapphire to Woolgoolga, but the local community is divided on the correct route.
In the past 12 to 18 months more than $5 million has been spent on planning and other matters but capital works have not started. At the same time, the Bongil bypass section from Lyons Road basically through to Raleigh has been planned, altered and delayed for two years. The works were intended to start in 2003 but have been deferred. At the moment $218 million for forward planning is available but is not being spent, and I ask the Minister to re-allocate money to fund the Bongil bypass project, which is ready to start. This year two deaths have occurred there. One of my constituents who was involved in a fatal accident was so badly injured that he is still undergoing facial reconstruction surgery, which is creating great angst to his family and others within the community.
I am sorry that the honourable member for Tweed did not attend, for legitimate reasons, the bipartisan summit, which recognised that sections of road have not been upgraded. Even though the speed limit has been reduced on many roads, such as the Bongil section, accidents still occur on those roads. A fortnight ago a tragic accident occurred at Nambucca Heads, which is in the electorate of the Leader of The Nationals. A man who went out to get a meal for his wife and child was tragically killed in a head-on collision on Wrights Corner. Two trucks swerved to miss the accident. One ended up in a paddock and the other in the Nambucca River.
It was tragic also because the wife of the man who died is currently undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. Their son, who attends the same school as my son, has to sit for—and will hopefully pass—his Higher School Certificate after suffering the trauma of losing his father and having a gravely ill mother. These sorts of personal tragedies occur daily on this highway. I believe the Federal Government will continue its support and funding under Auslink, but the Minister for Roads should consider allocating money to ensure that these black spots, these dead spots, are upgraded immediately and the number of people killed and maimed can be reduced.
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL (Tweed—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.12 a.m.]: The honourable member for Coffs Harbour has raised a very important point. The Pacific Highway upgrade commenced in 1996 with an agreement between the Federal and State governments, and has had ongoing bipartisan support. I am more than pleased that with the change of government in 1996 the Coalition met its early 1966 commitment for Federal and State funds to be put into that upgrade. I cannot comment about the transfer of money to these upgrades because I do not have sufficient details. However, many communities have been notified about when they can expect their section of road to be upgraded—but it is not set in concrete.
As sections of the highway are upgraded pressure is put on other sections in the middle, so to speak. I was pleased to hear the honourable member for Coffs Harbour say that the Federal Government will come to the party and commit to an extension of that 10-year agreement because it is vital that further sections of the highway be upgraded. The media have reported recently that it is good news that the Federal Government is sitting down with the State Government to talk about extending that agreement. Even though a great deal of money has been spent in my electorate in the 10-year program, I also have a great interest in the upgrade as it affects one particular area of my electorate.