Pre-Christmas bungle on the Pacific Highway
UPDATE: LABOR only needs to get on the ground and see the pace of work on the Pacific Highway on the North Coast to understand the progress, according to Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker.
Answering Labor's attack today over delays on the $830 million Warrell Creek to Nambucca Heads project, the Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister said work is steaming ahead to ensure the Macksville bypass is opened to traffic over the Christmas period.
"Macksville should be opened for Christmas, the Warrell Creek end won't be, and it's anticipated there'll be further sections opened between Port Macquarie and Kempsey in coming weeks," Mr Hartsuyker said.
"The pace of the work on the Pacific Highway is there for all to see, there have been a significant number of projects opened this year, with new speed limits being increased as it has become safe to do so.
"Just look at the sections between Port Macquarie and Kempsey, north of Arrawarra to Glenugie then the great scale of work at Tucabia. Work is progressing at a staggering rate and is really moving along well.
Mr Hartsuyker said stages of highway construction depended on government cash-flow and the availability of contractors to source material and workforce, then of course there were always unforeseen factors in road building such as weather events.
Today Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese said Budget documents showed the Federal Government had invested $1.37 billion on Pacific Highway projects in the year to June 30, seeing this financial year's investment fall to $710 million.
Mr Hartsuyker responded saying: "There has been more progress on the Pacific Highway under this government than under any other in history and Labor haven't been on the ground for four years."
"The strategy on the Pacific Highway has been to one: duplicate as many of the single lane 100km sections as possible to save lives.
"The second focus has been to bypass our towns to get trucks out of our main streets and the greatest priority is saving lives and that is the appropriate way to upgrade the Pacific Highway.
"Regrettably, we are still seeing serious and fatal accidents on the remaining single lane sections of the Pacific Highway, but the progress is there to see both south and north of Coffs Harbour.
He called on Mr Albanese to inspect the pace of works on the Pacific Highway on the North Coast.
"But Albo come on a workday and see it for yourself, don't come here on a weekend for a holiday and then put out a press release," Mr Hartsuyker said.
"He likes to claim credit for projects he had nothing to do with, possibly even the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Great Pyramid of Giza."
Today's political furore followed Mr Hartsuyker's update this week announcing progress across a number of road projects in the Cowper electorate.
"The remaining two projects include the Oxley Highway to Kundabung upgrade, which is expected to open to traffic in coming weeks, weather permitting, and the Warrell Creek to Nambucca Heads project which is expected to open in coming months," Mr Hartsuyker stated in a press release yesterday.
EARLIER: LABOR has slammed the Federal and State Governments for bungling the crucial pre-Christmas completion of the Pacific Highway upgrade between Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.
The Federal Government has confirmed the Warrell Creek to Nambucca Heads project "is expected to open in the coming months", but not before Christmas like originally planned.
The $830 million project, jointly funded by the Commonwealth and NSW Governments and constructed over three years, had been scheduled to open to the peak traffic over this year's Christmas holiday period.
After a run of recent serious crashes along the Nambucca Valley stretch, there are road safety concerns being held ahead of the Christmas period.
The Bellinger River ALP branch spokesman Andrew Woodward said of course the merit of the project is not in question, the issue is this 'missing link' is running late with no explanation for the bungle from either government.
"Further compounding the bungle is the Member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, continually talking up the completion of the project, knowing full well that it wasn't going to open this year as promised," Mr Woodward said.
"Last week he was caught out in Senate Estimates on the Coffs Harbour bypass.
"Now he's been sprung on the this project. Luke Hartsuyker's nose is growing at a faster rate the Pacific Highway construction program.
"Neither government is in any position to blame the weather for construction delays. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, October's heavier than usual rains did not make up for the second driest winter on record in NSW."
He called on Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester and Mr Hartsuyker to immediately confirm the expected completion date of the project.
Former Federal Transport Anthony Albanese also went on the offensive welcoming completion of the Kundabung to Kempsey Pacific Highway Upgrade, which he noted was funded by the former Federal Labor Government in 2013.
"It's pleasing to see another of the many Pacific Highway projects funded in budgets of the former Labor Government is now done and is providing real benefits for motorists up and down the NSW coast," Mr Albanese said.
"Labor provided $115 million for this project in our 2013 Budget, with the NSW State Government providing a matching contribution.
"Indeed, in our six years in office, the former Labor Government invested $7.9 billion on the Pacific Highway Upgrade - nearly six times more than the $1.4 billion provided by the former Howard Government over 12 long years.
"While the Turnbull Government has continued to roll out highway projects funded by the former Labor Government, I'm concerned it is now moving the whole duplication project into the slow lane."
Mr Albanese said Budget documents show the Government invested $1.37 billion on Pacific Highway projects in the year to June 30, seeing this financial year's investment fall to $710 million.
"This raises real doubt as to whether the Government will meet its target of completing the full duplication all the way to the Queensland border by the end of the decade," he said.
"The Pacific Highway duplication will boost productivity and significantly improve road safety on this important road. It must be completed as soon as possible."
Roads and Maritime Services and the Coalition State and Federal governments have been contacted for reply to Labor's claims.
WEDNESDAY: MOTORISTS are now enjoying a smoother and safer journey on the Pacific Highway, with 14 kilometres of new four-lane divided road now fully open to traffic from Kundabung to Kempsey.
Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said the upgraded highway would change lives and save lives.
"Around 75 per cent, or almost 500 kilometres, of the entire Pacific Highway upgrade is now complete between Hexham and the Queensland border. Since works started on the Pacific Highway, the number of fatal crashes have halved, reducing to about 20 crashes annually in recent years," Mr Chester said.
"That's the sort of result we want to see through our investment in the Pacific Highway - a safer road for drivers and a more efficient route for freight and businesses."
NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight and Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey said opening this stretch of road was a great boost for locals, with many people travelling between Kempsey and Port Macquarie on a daily basis.
"Although the final four kilometres will not be open until February, travel from Sydney to Warrell Creek is now all dual carriageway," Mrs Pavey said.
Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker said it was the third of five projects between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour to open since May last year.
"The remaining two projects include the Oxley Highway to Kundabung upgrade, which is expected to open to traffic in coming weeks, weather permitting, and the Warrell Creek to Nambucca Heads project which is expected to open in coming months," Mr Hartsuyker said.
A safety audit by Roads and Maritime Services has recommended another section of safety fencing be installed on a small section of the southern carriageway near Maria River.
This is expected to be complete in three weeks, weather permitting.