Ms HODGKINSON (Burrinjuck) [5.50 p.m.]: I, too, am saddened to hear of the death of the most distinguished and highly respected Harold Coates, a former member of this House. I extend my sympathy to his family and his loved ones during this time of grief and mourning.
I have spoken many times in this House about the need for the Government to pay more attention to roads in rural New South Wales. Today I shall specifically address local concerns about the state and future of Main Road 56, the Lachlan Valley Way. That road runs northwards to Boorowa from the Hume Highway just to the west of Yass. From Boorowa it continues north to Cowra and then follows the course of the Lachlan River as it flows west through Forbes and beyond. In my electorate of Burrinjuck the Lachlan Valley Way has a reputation as a bad road. It has been the site of many accidents. Some, unfortunately, have been fatal. There are few overtaking opportunities on the road, and that leads to heightened driver frustration and an increased risk of accidents. This year the Federal Government has allocated about $503,000 to fix black spots in two locations to the north and south of Boorowa. About $500,000 of Federal black spot funding has also been allocated towards work on the approaches to the Kangiara Bridge in Yass shire. The state of the Lachlan Valley Way in Boorowa and Yass shires is such that this year the Federal Government has decided that it is necessary to spend over $1 million to repair identified black spots.
Why is the Lachlan Valley Way in such dire straits? I have been informed that for several years maintenance funds for the Lachlan Valley Way were diverted to rehabilitation work on the Burley Griffin Way between Harden and Yass. That was done with the agreement of the Boorowa Shire Council on the understanding that a similar arrangement would be put in place when the work on the Burley Griffin Way was completed. That agreement is not being honoured by the Minister for Roads and the Lachlan Valley Way is now, and I quote those who maintain it, "in poor condition because of past starvation of maintenance funds". This year the maintenance budget for the Lachlan Valley Way in Boorowa shire is $1.4 million. In Yass shire $231,000 has been budgeted for expected maintenance work. Boorowa Shire Council has written to me informing me that it is being forced to undertake maintenance in a piecemeal and unsatisfactory fashion. The council stated:
Council is carrying out stabilisation within areas marked out for heavy patching. The fact that a full patch is not being remedied has led to criticism that Council is only patching patches with no perceived benefit to the road user.
Boorowa Shire Council further wrote:
In order to achieve economies of scale, a decent length needs to be patched at one time … The money spent on the stabiliser should have been concentrated in the one area to achieve economy of operation and those areas which were deemed to be unsafe or requiring attention will be given a 'Band Aid' patch until the next round of funding.
That clearly shows that the funds allocated to maintain the Lachlan Valley Way are barely sufficient to maintain a bad road in its existing poor state. Council is reduced to patching patches with insufficient funds being provided by the State Government. In response to this clear need, the Minister for Roads will jump up and proudly point to his recent announcement of $9 million funding for this road as a result of the hike in the Harbour Bridge Toll and other Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] charges. I welcome additional funding for the Lachlan Valley Way; I have asked for it often enough in Parliament and in representations to the Minister. I will, however, believe it when I see it.
We all became very excited about the Premier's 1997 promise of an additional $6 million a year for 10 years for roads in the area of operation of the Visy pulp and paper mill. That promise, as with so many promises made by the Carr Labor Government, was subsequently rewritten into a commitment to maintain the existing level of road funding for a period of ten years. The roads on the south-west slopes are now crumbling under the assault of a massive increase in heavy logging traffic servicing the Visy mill while the Carr Labor Government refuses to accept its responsibility, make good on its promise and properly maintain these roads.
In circumstances such as these I fear for the Lachlan Valley Way. The Minister is well known for repeatedly announcing funding programs spread over many years that are later quietly rewritten. The additional $9 million which he has announced for the Lachlan Valley Way is spread over three council areas—Yass, Boorowa and Cowra—over three years. I am told that of that $9 million, $5 million will be spent in Boorowa shire. Over three years that equates to about $1.67 million a year in road maintenance on the Lachlan Valley Way. That figure is suspiciously close to the existing parlous budget being spent on this important but badly maintained road. The councils that maintain this road have asked, but have not been told where, when or how the Lachlan Valley Way money will be spent. I call on the Minister to come clean and give a firm unequivocal commitment to how much additional funding will be given, when it will be realised and where it will be spent.