Labor risking more lives on the Pacific Highway

24 November 2014

Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay today said Labor’s claim on rerouting the Pacific Highway between Woolgoolga and Ballina would result in a two-year delay and would put more lives at risk.

“On average 28 people lose their lives on the Pacific Highway each year in its current form,” Minister Gay said.

“You do the maths, Labor’s claim on rerouting the Highway will mean a two-year delay in construction.

“Too many lives are lost on this highway that’s why the NSW and Federal Governments are working together to deliver a fully duplicated Pacific Highway by 2020 at the same time as protecting koalas along the road corridor.

“Labor is all spin and no solution as usual. This time using koalas to play politics on the Pacific Highway – also means they’re playing with people’s lives.

“If Labor reroutes the Highway 12 sugar cane farms would also need to be acquired - severely crippling the region’s cane industry and devastate the local economy.

“The preferred route for the Woolgoolga to Ballina project was carefully selected after considering a range of competing factors including functional, social, environmental, ecological constraints and economic criteria.

“This was done to provide a route that can be justified now and for future generations.

“Potential routes further to the east would have had significant impacts on the Jali land (west of the Richmond River), significant impacts on cane land and floodplains and would cost 60 per cent more.

“The route through cane land would require stabilisation of deep underlying soft soils at a much greater cost; there are significant engineering constraints to building a road in a floodplain.

“The NSW Government is very aware of the presence of koalas along the approved highway corridor between Wardell and Coolgardie, south of Ballina.” Minister Gay said.

“That’s why we have pulled together a team of experts to develop a koala management plan as part of the upgrade.

“While the approved route is located in mostly cleared land we are committed to making sure the koala and other species can safely cross under or over the new highway.”

These measures include:

  • Fully fencing nearly 16 kilometres of both sides of the new highway which will be connected to the fauna crossing structures;
  • Increasing the number of fauna crossings suitable for koalas by more than 400 per cent to that proposed in the December 2013 Submissions and Preferred Infrastructure Report (from six to approximately 25 structures by increasing the size of the drainage structures for use by koalas);
  • Construction of a land-bridge (at least 30 metres wide) north of the Richmond River crossing, south of Bagotville; and
  • Planting some 130 hectares of koala food trees on RMS owned land near the new highway corridor where at least 50 per cent will be planted prior to construction and the remainder after construction. More land may become available for planting as RMS completes the property acquisition for this section for the highway upgrade.

“While this government is delivering this vital piece of infrastructure and making every effort to protect koalas, again Labor, as expected, is making a mockery of the community and businesses of the North Coast, who deserve this vital piece of infrastructure.

“When it comes to the Pacific Highway upgrade Labor cannot be trusted – they had 16 years to duplicate the highway but preferred to play political football instead,” Minister Gay said.

MEDIA: Siobhan McCarthy 0407 791 802 & Emma Higginson 0467 743 192

Labor’s litany of broken promises on the Pacific Highway

  • 1996 – NSW Labor promises to upgrade the entire length of the Pacific Highway to dual carriageway by 2006.
  • 1998 – NSW Labor revises its promised duplication end date to 2012.
  • 2008 – The then NSW Labor Treasurer Eric Roozendaal’s infamous November 2008 mini-Budget strips $300 million from future highway upgrades.
  • 2011 -Federal Labor abandoned 80:20 funding split ratio between the Australian and NSW governments in 2011; thereby ending any chance of completing the full duplication of the highway by 2016.

View original media release (PDF)

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