Nelson Bay Road - Liberal's Broken Promise
The people of Port Stephens have been let down by this Government and its misplaced priorities. In recent weeks the Premier has launched her 20‑year infrastructure plan, but I must ask the Premier, "What is the point of planning the next 20 years if you cannot even deliver the projects you promised at the last election?"
The people of Port Stephens have every right to feel cheated, after the recent confirmation that the promised upgrade to Nelson Bay Road has been deferred until at least 2021. Nelson Bay Road is one of the most important roads in Port Stephens. This State road connects the Tomaree Peninsula, the Tilligerry Peninsula, and the Newcastle Airport to the broader Hunter region. At least half the residents in my electorate must travel on this road to get to or from Newcastle and to the rest of the Hunter. This is also the road that brings the many tourists to our region, tripling the population in peak times and supporting the many amazing tourism businesses of Port Stephens.
I cannot underscore enough the importance of this road to the economic and social wellbeing of Port Stephens. Despite its importance, there are sections of the road that are still single lane and causing significant congestion during peak times, as well as posing a risk of traffic accidents blocking the only entrance and exit for the area. A number of sections of the road have been duplicated so far. Stages 1 and 2 were completed under Labor governments led by Bob Carr and Morris Iemma. Stage 3 was completed under the O'Farrell Government.
Given the importance of this road, significant attention was paid when then Premier Mike Baird came to Port Stephens and promised just under $70 million for what he called the "full duplication" of the road. This commitment was made on the eve of the 2015 election, only a short time after Labor had promised a similar commitment for the next section of duplication. After the election Mike Baird continued as Premier, and this election commitment was published in the New South Wales Government's 2015 to 2019 election commitment document. This commitment was so special it was the third project listed in the transport section. That document is still available on the Treasury website.
With its prominent placement in the list of election commitments, I was always curious as to why the project was not a line item in the budget. Why were my questions each year about the time frame for the delivery of this project ignored? I had just put this down to the usual arrogance of this Government, but freedom of information documents now tell a deeper story. At some point after the 2015 election, a decision was made that the almost $70 million that had been promised would not be spent in this term of Government.
Instead, it would be put on hold until at least 2021. This meant the road works would not be completed until 2025. Only $200,000, or less than 1 per cent of the promised money, has been spent so far on this project. What has that money been spent on? It has been spent on a plan for the design of road works that may or may not start in the years to come.
The deferral was so significant that RMS rejected the proposal to begin further planning works, as there was no commitment to commence construction until 2021. This information has come from the Government's own documents. What the freedom of information documents do not reveal is who ordered this road project to be deferred. Any decision involving that amount of money would surely need to go to the Expenditure Review Committee [ERC], so the chair of the ERC at that time, then Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian, would surely have had to approve this election backflip—this broken promise.
This Premier can find billions of dollars for stadiums in Sydney but cannot deliver the infrastructure that this Government promised to a whole community at the last election. The word around Port Stephens is that local Liberals were so angry at losing the electorate in 2015 that they would prefer the residents to suffer through years of inaction, rather than deliver this project while a Labor member is in the seat. How must it feel to be a Liberal voter in Port Stephens—there are quite a few of them, I must say—and to know that even if they look past the Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC] investigations, the sale of the Mambo Wetlands, the transport mess in Newcastle and the sale of public assets and still voted Liberal, the Government would ignore the promises it made?
It has been fascinating to watch the spokesperson for the Hunter, Mr Scot MacDonald, try to defend this decision on Nelson Bay Road and claim that it is not a broken election promise. He has been peddling the line that the road works are still planned to commence in 2021, so it is not a backflip. I say to Mr MacDonald that no‑one believes him. We can judge this Government on its record: breaking its promise on Nelson Bay Road, selling off Mambo Wetlands, and ignoring Williamtown contamination. I invite the Premier to come to Port Stephens and explain to residents why she was happy to see this commitment delayed—[Time expired.]