‘Smoke and mirrors'

IN giving $1.02billion to the NSW Government towards the duplication of the Pacific Hwy on a 50/50 funding basis, the Federal Government has put the new State Government in an awkward position.

NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said previous funding of the highway had been 80/20 in the State Government's favour and that is what treasury was preparing its budget for.

“That's something that we have to carefully go and see if and where we could (find the money), because obviously it is not already within our budget,” he said.

Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell described the Federal Government move, in which they diverted $270 million to the Pacific Hwy from the Sydney M4 East upgrade, as “smoke and mirrors”.

It is understood the funds were diverted because the M4 upgrade was not ready for construction like parts of the Pacific Hwy.

Chair of the Pacific Hwy Taskforce Richie Williamson said the people of northern NSW didn't care who funded the upgrade.

Both State and Federal governments had made emphatic commitments to make the highway dual carriageway by 2016, he said.

“I toured the Pacific Hwy from Ballina to Grafton with the Premier when he was opposition leader so he has a very clear understanding of the needs.”

“During the state election campaign then shadow roads minister, now Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner, said the Pacific Hwy would be fast-tracked and recommitted to a 2016 deadline,” he said.

“The state needs to come good on its promises and ensure their part of the deal in the budget.

“They were talking the talk, now they've got to walk the walk.”

Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said the Pacific Hwy was the nation's largest road construction project.

The Glenugie upgrade, for $54 million, was to be completed before the end of the year and the Ballina bypass would be complete next year at a cost of $421 million.



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