Pledged cash for bypass still on hold
TODAY marks three years since the NSW Government made a pre-election pledge of $200million to build the Coffs Harbour bypass.
A Coffs Coast Advocate investigation of Budget papers reveals $10million has been spent in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 financial years, with the bulk of the funds to be released when construction of the bypass begins.
When questioned on the issue, NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey failed to reply, but Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser was more forthcoming.
Mr Fraser said the State Government's funding was all on the table and work needed to start this year.
Mr Fraser said a Federal Government funding commitment in the May Budget would be crucial.
"I see the issue as a major election issue," Mr Fraser said. "The Feds need to say 'this is important'."
He estimated the "three to four year" project would cost $1-1.4billion.
Mr Fraser said he was fearful if work didn't start on the Coffs Harbour bypass this year - after the Warrell Creek deviation is finished - it would push the project back years.
"If we lose that machinery to another project, we're doomed," he said. "All we need here is a funding commitment sooner rather than later."
Mr Fraser said if costs exceeded the initial $1billion estimate, the State Government would pay up.
"The state is committed to the project," he said.
Opposition spokeswoman for roads, maritime and freight Jodi McKay said even though the NSW Government had submitted a bypass plan to Canberra, the state Coalition needed to do more to show it was a priority.
"For the last three years we've heard talk about it being a priority project but the reality is very different," Ms McKay said.
"The NSW Government boasts about its $200million commitment, but we know they need the Federal Government to provide a further $800million for the project to proceed.
"The minister must explain why it took almost three years to submit a business case asking for federal funding."
Mr Fraser said he'd recently spoken with and written to the new Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Michael McCormack but had not yet received a response.