Work progresses on the Pacific Highway upgrade south of Ballina, near the Bruxner Highway turn-off near Emigrant Creek.
Work progresses on the Pacific Highway upgrade south of Ballina, near the Bruxner Highway turn-off near Emigrant Creek.

Debate over Pacific Hwy deadline

THE Pacific Highway upgrade will not be completed in time to meet the Federal Government's 2016 deadline, regardless of who wins the August 21 election, Nationals Leader Warren Truss said yesterday.

However, a spokesman for Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the work could be finished in time and the Government remained committed to the deadline.

Speaking at Boat Harbour, just outside Lismore, Mr Truss said the 2016 deadline was no longer achievable and it could take up to another four years to complete the duplication.

Mr Truss accused Federal Labor of ‘absolving' NSW of its responsibility for the highway and said a Federal Coalition government would expect the State to return to the 50/50 funding split that was in place on the highway before the 2007 election.

“Labor has said nothing about how it will reach the 2016 deadline and I think it's no longer applicable ... and I regret that,” Mr Truss said.

Even with unlimited funds Mr Truss said planning for the upgrade was not advanced enough to have any hope of meeting the deadline.

The Coalition aimed to have an eastern highway network, from Melbourne to Sydney, to Brisbane and north past Gympie, complete by 2020.

However, Mr Truss was unable to say where the Pacific Highway would fit within that.

“We regard it (the Pacific Highway) as a high priority,” Mr Truss said.

“We will devote the maximum amount of funds possible.”

The comments follow repeated questions about the funding needed to finish the upgrade.

The NRMA has estimated about $6 billion in work remains to be done, beyond the money included in the current Commonwealth/State agreement on road funding, which runs out in 2014.

Mr Albanese and Page MP Janelle Saffin have repeatedly insisted the 2016 deadline will be met – an assertion repeated yesterday by a spokesman for Mr Albanese.

The spokesman said the upgrade would have been nearly completed if the former Coalition government had funded the highway at the same rate as the current Labor government.



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