LOCAL Federal MP Luke Hartsuyker has called on the Federal and State governments to end the bickering on the Pacific Highway.
In a speech to the House of Representatives this week, Mr Hartsuyker said local residents had had enough of the political point scoring.
“It seems incredible that, effectively, we are debating in this House the bickering between the State and Federal governments, because the people of the North Coast are sick of bickering," he said.
“They just want the State Government and the Federal Government to shut up and get on and start building the road.”
Mr Hartsuyker said the combined commitment of $5 billion from the Federal and State governments should not be held to ransom by the current stand-off.
“Stop talking about it, stop arguing and just get on and build it. That is what the people of NSW and the people of Australia who travel from Sydney to Brisbane want. We need an effective Pacific Highway to handle the huge transport task safely.
“A number of areas in my electorate are particularly notorious — most notably the accident blackspot from Warrell Creek to Urunga. Sadly, today there has been yet another accident south of Macksville.
“The Macksville bridge is decades past its use-by date and simply not up to the huge transport task of supporting the massive B-doubles which are crossing it in their thousands each week.”
Mr Hartsuyker criticised those who still claimed the highway could be duplicated by 2016.
“It seems incredible that members of this House and other politicians are out there and still talking about a completion date of 2016. That is nothing but an elaborate deception.
“The opportunity to complete the highway by 2016 slipped by long ago. It has taken 16 years to so far complete 52 per cent of the highway, but the Government and the Member for Lyne would have us believe that, while it took 16 years to do the first half of the project, the second half can be miraculously done in four years. That is a fairy story.
“As members of this House we have an obligation to deal truthfully with our electorates; we have an obligation to deal with the facts. The simple fact is that if you going to complete the highway in four years you are going to have to complete it at a rate of 80 kilometres a year.
“They have not come close to that rate in any year so far, and they are not going to do it now.
“If we have a look at the stats, we see that they are quite informative. The total length of the section of highway in question is 664 kilometres; 346 kilometres are completed; 318 kilometres are still to go; 60 kilometres are under construction; 121 kilometres are planned; and 137 kilometres are not even in receipt of planning approval.
“If we look at the time it takes to build some of these very extensive civil works projects — I see the Member for Page up there, and there was a massive task completed on the Ballina bypass — we realise that it takes years to do these things.
“There are huge engineering challenges. There is subsidence in the soil because of the very unstable nature of many of the alluvial flats that have to be crossed on some of the remaining sections.
“It is a huge task, and 137 kilometres of the highway have not even had planning approval yet. With a three-year-plus construction timetable, a lot of planning has to happen between now and the end of the year for there to be any hope of the project being completed by the end of 2016.
“This road will not be finished by 2016, but we are still duty-bound to use our best endeavours to complete the road just as quickly as possible, to stop arguing the toss, stop arguing about the split of percentages. Both levels of government should commit the maximum amount of funds possible to the road and get it done just as quickly as they can.
“I have two priorities as the Member for Cowper, as one who represents a large stretch of the highway. We need to bypass black spots as quickly as possible. Eliminate the worst accident spots first. That clearly has to be a priority.
“We have to as a matter of urgency extend the proposal to do the work from Nambucca to Urunga. We need to extend that to Warrell Creek so that we take out that entire accident black spot — not just half of it, which is the current proposal.
"The other important thing we must do is get the heavy vehicles out of the main streets of our towns. That is vitally important. It is vitally important that we bypass Macksville, as I said. The bridge cannot cope with the loads on it at the moment.
“We need to bypass Coffs Harbour. We have some 13 sets of traffic lights going through Coffs Harbour. Bypassing Coffs Harbour would result in a huge improvement in traffic efficiency on the Pacific Highway.
“It is vital that the Coffs Harbour bypass be an integral part of the Pacific Highway project and not left until the end. It certainly must be completed just as quickly as possible. Ulmarra still needs to be bypassed. That is a vitally important project. These are very important projects.
"We saw in Urunga, tragically, what happens when heavy vehicles crash in a built-up area. It is a disastrous situation.
“I have been fighting since I have been the Member for Cowper to ensure that the highway is upgraded as quickly as possible. I welcome all financial commitments, both state and federal, towards the construction of the road, but I am concerned that there is an attempt at deception to make people believe there is any prospect of a 2016 completion date, which there is not."