Pacific Highway Upgrade
Mr ANDREW STONER (Oxley—Leader of The Nationals) [5.27 p.m.]: I refer to two parts of the Pacific Highway in my electorate of Oxley that are a serious safety concern. Early today during question time the Minister for Roads announced a road safety audit of the Pacific Highway, which is pleasing. However, on a number of occasions I have referred to two areas that, from my experience and that of local residents, are extremely dangerous and should be top priorities in any audit of road safety on the Pacific Highway, particularly in that mid North Coast area between Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie. The first is Wrights Corner, which is just north of Macksville, where, tragically, fatalities have occurred in recent weeks. It has a terrible road accident history.
Wrights Corner is a narrow stretch of the road with the river on one side and a farm on the other. There is no verge to allow for any evasive action in the event of a problem. It has been suggested that signposting and the speed limit are factors in indicating that it is okay to travel at 100 kilometres per hour. That certainly is not the case. The Government installed a speed camera in the area, but I am aware of many serious accidents, including fatal accidents, occurring right under the speed camera. Clearly, we need road infrastructure. The Nambucca Shire Council has provided me with photographs and maps of the corner, which I will provide to the Minister. Some of the farmland on the left, as one travels north, should be resumed so that the corner can be flattened and widened.
If that is done, I am sure many tragic accidents will be prevented. Recently one of the local high school teachers from Macksville died at Wrights Corner. The community is up in arms about that. I understand that the Teachers Federation and the Transport Workers Union are investigating the matter, and I would like the Government to make the resolution of this problem a top priority. In the context of the roads budget, improvement will not be expensive, but it will save lives. I will pass on these documents to the Minister and I thank him in anticipation for his consideration of the action that should be taken to save lives at Wrights Corner.
The other location of concern is outside the Bellimbopinni Public School, which is situated to the north of Frederickton. The Bellimbopinni Public School is in an open area along a road with a 100 kilometres an hour speed limit; it is just south of where the Clybucca bus accident occurred in 1989 with the loss of 35 lives. It is a dangerous stretch of road and the school is virtually in the middle of farmland. The 100 kilometres an hour speed limit drops suddenly to 40 kilometres an hour at the school zone. People who are not aware of the time tend to suddenly reduce their speed from 100 kilometres an hour to 40 kilometres an hour, despite large signs indicating the times when the 40 kilometres an hour speed limit applies. As recently as last Friday I drove through the area at 10.30 a.m.—the 40 kilometres an hour speed limit operates from 8 a.m. until 9.30 a.m.—when the car in front of mine braked suddenly and I almost collided with it. If I had been driving a B-double, I dare say I would not have been able to stop in time; I would have hit that car. There are skid marks all over the road surface in front of the Bellimbopinni Public School.
I have received repeated representations from Councillor Brian Sowter from the Kempsey Shire Council and from Glen Brown and Judy McKay, who are local residents. Petitions have been presented. I have written to the Minister on a number of occasions. I understand the sticking point is that the school's principal wants to retain the 40 kilometres an hour speed zone outside the school in the interests of the safety of the students. I propose a resolution to the problem which I believe will save lives. I live in fear that there will be a loss of lives outside the Bellimbopinni Public School. The solution is to have a wide entry into the school for the school bus and a wide exit point where school children can be dropped off and picked up inside the school grounds. Provided there is a suitable entrance and egress from the school for the bus along the road so that it can slow down in safety and speed up in sufficient time, the problem would be resolved. Almost daily constituents, including local councillors, tell me that numerous near-misses occur. There are tyre marks all over the surface of the road. A tragic fatal accident will occur if the problem is not resolved.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.32 p.m.]: I thank the Leader of The Nationals for bringing these matters to the attention of the House. He stated that he has spoken to the Minister about Wrights Corner and that he will make written representations about Bellimbopinni Public School. I know both areas. Today during question time the Minister for Roads informed the House of record levels of spending on improvements to the Pacific Highway. Everyone's attention is focused on improving road safety along that road. The Minister also pointed out that there has been a huge increase in heavy vehicle traffic which has diverted from the New England Highway to the Pacific Highway. There are pinch points along that highway. Undoubtedly local people who use that road are used to driving at 100 kilometres an hour along the dual carriageway and are unaccustomed to dealing with a reduced speed zone or a change in conditions. That applies not only to Bellimbopinni. Sometimes drivers are not as observant as perhaps they should be. The two issues are being brought to the attention of the Minister. I am sure that the Minister will give them serious consideration.