Brian McGowan Bridge
BRIAN McGOWAN BRIDGE
Mr McBRIDE (The Entrance) [6.45]: I wish to speak on a matter of great interest in my electorate and the people of the central coast. On Sunday, 10 December, the final stage of the upgrade of the Kariong to Gosford section of the Pacific Highway was officially opened. Last Sunday the final link, the railway flyover bridge, was opened by the Minister for Roads, the Hon. Michael Knight, who is in the Chamber. Importantly the bridge is dedicated by name to the former member for Gosford and Gosford city councillor, the late Brian McGowan. I believe this is an appropriate dedication as this bridge is now the gateway to the central coast and the region of the State to which Brian was totally devoted.
Brian was renowned for his commitment to the environment and education, but he was also committed to the need for the constant upgrading of infrastructure as the area continued to grow. One of his proud claims was that during his time as a State member of Parliament one-third of the total budget of the former Public Works Department was spent on the central coast, providing water and sewerage infrastructure. While Brian was a member for Gosford, the electric train service was extended to Wyong, numerous schools and social welfare centres were established, water and sewerage services were extended to the whole of the coast and a commitment was made by the then Labor Government to the construction of the Kariong to Gosford roadworks.
In 1987 the then Labor Government roads 2000 policy was established and included the upgrading of the Pacific Highway throughout the central coast. The Kariong to Gosford sector was noted as one of the vital links in that program, and works started in September 1988, following completion of the final design and investigation. Work at Kariong Hill commenced in July 1989. However, because of other priorities of the Greiner Government, these projects fell into disrepute and became a local joke. Work was racing away on the Wyong Road project to prop up the recently-won seat of The Entrance by the Liberal Party, while the projects in west Gosford and at Kariong Hill moved at a snail's pace.
The west Gosford section, less than a few kilometres in length, was not completed until August 1992, some four years after commencement. A snail could have crawled the distance back and forth 100 times during that construction period. Work at Kariong Hill also took four years to complete, from 1989 to 1993. The abysmally slow progress became a public scandal. The public outrage was further fuelled by the attitude of the Deputy Premier, Wal Murray, to the closure to the Pacific Highway at Cheerio Point due to landslip. In April 1988 the Pacific Highway was reduced from three lanes to two lanes, and in March 1990 from two lanes to one lane. In April 1991 the highway was closed. The then Minister for Roads, Wal Murray, indicated that reconstruction of the Pacific Highway at Cheerio Point would cost $2.25 million and the highway would remain closed. Given the attitude of the then Government, supported by the honourable member for Gosford, Mr Chris Hartcher, the then member for Peats, the late Tony Doyle, introduced a private member's bill called the Pacific Highway (Cheerio Point) Re-opening Bill 1993 to overcome the obstinacy of the Deputy Premier.
In summary, in 1991 the Pacific Highway at Cheerio Point was closed and the west Gosford and Kariong Hill projects were moving at a snail's pace. Bob Stains, Central Coast Express editor and local community leader, reflected the community concern by launching a public protest campaign over closure of the Pacific Highway and the snail's pace of the west Gosford roadworks. The cartoon on the front page of the Central Coast Express of Wednesday, 12 May 1993, encapsulated the attitude of the Minister to community concern over road issues in the Gosford City Council area. In that cartoon the then Deputy Premier has a cork firmly stuck in each ear - he was deaf to the protests of the local community over roads issues.
I believe the concentrated efforts of a number of parties resulted in the successful completion of these roadworks. I refer to community outrage; the concerted efforts of the late Tony Doyle, member for Peats; the efforts of the mayor of Gosford City Council and former candidate for the seat of Gosford, Councillor Tony Sansom; the Gosford Chamber of Commerce; the central coast development corporation; and local media, both radio and press. The opening of the Brian McGowan Bridge last Sunday was an occasion to be celebrated by all residents of the central coast.
In conclusion, I congratulate those associated with the construction of the bridge: workers from the Roads and Traffic Authority, council, State Rail Authority, engineers, designers, the project management team and other contractors. Lastly I
congratulate those associated with the celebration: media staff from the RTA led by Peter Henderson, and the local organiser Mr Richard Davies, who was chairman of the combined bridge opening committee. The committee included members from West Gosford Rotary Club, East Gosford Rotary Club, North Gosford Rotary Club, Kariong-Somersby Rotary Club, Gosford City Council, local police, the State Rail Authority, and Gosford Chamber of Commerce. Last Sunday was a magnificent celebration marking the conclusion of a major infrastructure project for the central coast and honouring the service of a dedicated local member of State Parliament. [Time expired.]
Mr KNIGHT (Campbelltown - Minister for Public Works and Services, Minister for the Olympics, and Minister for Roads) [6.50]: It is always interesting to hear from the honourable member for The Entrance on road matters. He is a dedicated representative of his constituents and a particularly strong fighter for central coast roads. I joined him on Sunday at the opening of the Brian McGowan Bridge. It is a great bridge and is a tribute to those involved in the lobbying and construction of it. It was particularly enjoyable to me as a member of the Wran Government to pay tribute to Brian and his work. I take this opportunity to also pay tribute to the work of Rotary, which was involved in the opening of the bridge, and to the community generally.
The honourable member for The Entrance covered the political background of the bridge. I do not wish to reiterate that except to advise the House of one remarkable event of political overtones at the opening ceremony. The bridge links two electorates: Gosford, which is held by the Liberal Party, and Peats, which is held by the Labor Party. To my amazement, when the bridge was opened in the Gosford electorate it rained, but by the time I had led the walk across the bridge into the Peats electorate the rain had stopped. Lest people think this was just a normal and natural phenomenon, when we returned to the Gosford side the rain recommenced.