PRINCES HIGHWAY UPGRADE
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK
(South Coast) [5.55 p.m.]: I have spoken many times in this place about the importance of the Princes Highway for business, industry and visitors on the South Coast. Needless to say, there was universal condemnation when last year's State budget revealed New South Wales State Labor had decreased its budget allocation for the Princes Highway by 46 per cent compared with the previous year's allocation. Last year's allocation was $78 million and barely enough for one major project along the 470 kilometres between Waterfall and the Victorian border. New South Wales Labor continues its failure to invest in the State's roads and transport infrastructure, and currently there is no major work proceeding on the Princes Highway following the recent completion of the Conjola Mountain upgrade.
Works on the Princes Highway have literally ground to a halt and without any assistance from the Rudd Labor Government New South Wales Labor also is failing to recognise the importance of the highway as the only transport link for many commuters and businesses. It is important to note that the highway is a State Government responsibility and that the former Howard Government was committed to assisting New South Wales in achieving important infrastructure upgrades—a fact often ignored by the current Illawarra State members of Parliament, who have no doubt been humiliated by their own Government's inaction and the current failure by Kevin Rudd to contribute anything to the Princes Highway.
Residents should be very clear about significant funding contributions to various Princes Highway upgrades by the former Howard Government and the committed lobbying by the Federal member for Gilmore, Joanna Gash, to achieve major upgrades. John Howard, following intense and passionate lobbying by Joanna Gash, contributed $10 million to the Conjola Mountain upgrade, $15 million for the Forest Road to Jervis Bay Road upgrade and $34 million for the North Kiama bypass. Prior to the last election Prime Minister John Howard also committed $20 million for much needed duplication works at South Nowra, if he was re-elected. Only recently, Tony Abbott committed a further $20 million for an upgrade at East Lynne, if elected to government, where earlier this year three members of the Bridge family tragically lost their lives in dreadful circumstances.
But the current Federal budget indicates no funding for the Princes Highway at all and is in stark contrast with the former Howard Government's recognition of the importance of the Princes Highway for residents from southern Sydney to the Victorian border and for businesses and much needed investment. In my view there are two major projects that should have been commenced by now, and previous budgets allocating only planning money indicate a lack of commitment by New South Wales Labor to these vital Princes Highway upgrades.
The first project that could have been commenced long ago is the South Nowra highway duplication project that would have resulted in an enhanced dual carriageway from Kinghorne Street to Forest Road on the Princes Highway. The project has received overwhelming support from business, residents and Shoalhaven City Council. This section of the highway is, at best, congested and, at worst, on many days, weekends and holidays, completely gridlocked. The highway in this area provides access to major shopping centres and businesses and is the only route for visitors travelling further south. It is completely substandard and must be included in this year's budget.
The second project is the upgrade of the Princes Highway between Gerringong and Bomaderry, including a bypass of the town of Berry that has been on the table for more than fifteen years. The Gerringong to Bomaderry section of the highway is almost entirely single-lane in each direction and carries more than 11,000 vehicles a day. The section poses a serious danger to motorists. In a five-year period from July 2000 to June 2005 there were 230 reported crashes and nine fatalities between Fern Street, Gerringong, and Cambewarra Road, Bomaderry. State Labor promised the project in 2006, yet five years later nothing has commenced and the member for Kiama continues to claim that the project is so significant it will require years of planning. That argument beggars belief: four years of planning for this project. Some sections of the project could have commenced long ago, yet the State Labor Government failed again to attract any funding under Infrastructure Australia due to its entirely inadequate submission—according to the Federal Government.
The Leader of the Opposition, Barry O'Farrell, has visited the area on numerous occasions, as has the shadow Minister for Roads, Andrew Stoner. They both understand the importance of the Princes Highway and have committed themselves to providing additional funding for its upgrade. The current Minister for Roads should understand the importance of the abovementioned two projects. After all, he is the Minister for the Illawarra. However, he continues to focus on Sydney's transport, road failures and controversies, and ignores his own backyard. I call on the Minister to ensure that funding is included in this year's budget for works to commence at South Nowra between Kinghorne Street and Forest Road, and the section between Gerringong and Bomaderry. Plenty of time has been set aside for these projects and planning money has been available in budgets. Both projects are ready to proceed, although not the entire Gerringong to Bomaderry project but certainly the proposed Berry bypass. Trucks continue to rumble through that beautiful town. This affects the constituents of the electorates of Bega, South Coast, Kiama and further north. Everyone who travels along the Princes Highway deserves a better standard of highway.
Mrs BARBARA PERRY
(Auburn—Minister for Local Government, Minister Assisting the Minister for Planning, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Mental Health)) [6.00 p.m.]: I thank the member for South Coast for her contribution. As she knows, over $100 million has been allocated to the Oak Flats to Dunmore link road, which is currently open. The member would know also that planning is well underway for the section of highway from Gerringong to Bomaderry. It is a bit disingenuous of the member to not present a well-balanced speech and acknowledge those outcomes.