Too much planning, not enough work says Piper

17th November 2020

Source: Newcastle Herald | By: Max McKinney | Posted: November 17, 2020

The state Opposition has slammed the NSW government after it was revealed most of the more than $60 million allocated towards Hunter road projects in the state budget would be spent on planning - rather than constructing - long-awaited upgrades.

The government allocated $21 million to continue planning the M1 Motorway extension between Black Hill and Raymond Terrace - a project which has been on the drawing board since 2004 - and $20 million for site preparation works on the fifth and final stage of the Newcastle Inner City Bypass.

While neither project was listed with an expected overall cost, nor a start or completion date, the budget said the government would spend $852.6 million on the two over the next four years.

Only $8.5 million was allocated to planning the Singleton and Muswellbrook bypasses, despite the Singleton project recently attracting $587 million in federal funds. A further $6.7 million went to the New England Highway upgrade between Belford and the Golden Highway.

Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said the budget showed the region's infrastructure projects were "still stuck in the planning stage".

"For the sixth year in a row, the Nelson Bay Road duplication has been delayed," she said.

The road attracted $6 million, but the funds are separate to the long-awaited duplication between Bobs Farm and Williamtown.

Ms Washington's comments refer to former premier Mike Baird's talk of "full duplication" when he committed $70 million to the upgrade in 2015, 10 days before an election.

Gladys Berejiklian recommitted that amount, plus another $205 million, for the project ahead of the 2019 election.

Regional Roads Minister Paul Toole visited the region last month to unveil a potential third route for the road. Launching a fresh round of community consultation which closes on November 27, Mr Toole said the government wanted to deliver the upgrade "as soon as possible" but had to "take the time to make sure we get it right."

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper hit out at the government after funding for Hillsborough Road was rolled over from previous budgets.

"Problems on Hillsborough Road are getting worse. It's the same on Lake Road at Speers Point, on Macquarie Road at Cardiff, on Dora Street at Morisset," he said.

The government allocated $13.3 million for "planning and preservation" of the Lower Hunter Freight Corridor, an amount similar to the past four years. Only $3.6 million has been spent so far.

"Year after year the same unspent funds are reannounced but the project never progresses," Newcastle state MP Tim Crakanthorp said of the proposed freight rail line between Fassifern and Hexham. 

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