An aerial view of West Ballina and the major bypass construction works pictured in February.
An aerial view of West Ballina and the major bypass construction works pictured in February. David Nielsen

Highway upgrade bypassed

DESPITE a strong lobbying campaign, no new money was allocated for upgrades to the Pacific Highway on the Northern Rivers in the Federal Government’s Budget.

This means the 2016 deadline to complete the dual carriageway is now even less realistic, says Nationals candidate for Page, Kevin Hogan.

“The timeline is looking less and less likely,” he said.

“If the money from the previous stimulus packages had gone to the Pacific Highway upgrade it would be a lot closer to being finished.

“If elected the Nationals would happily put in our bit.”

However, Page MP Janelle Saffin said the 2016 deadline for the completion of the highway was still achievable.

“They (the Nationals) always talk gloom and doom,” she said.

“But this Government added over $2 billion to the Pacific Highway funding.

“I also got extra money for the Ballina bypass, and for the Alstonville bypass.

“The Minister (Anthony Albanese) has said it will be done by 2016 and I am with him on that.”

Despite the lack of funding for the Pacific Highway in her electorate, Ms Saffin said there were plenty of other initiatives that would benefit her Page constituents.

She highlighted the $80 million for the Apprentice Kickstart program, helping to train local apprentices.

“Across Page we helped 262 local apprentices get a start last summer,” she said.

Ms Saffin also pointed out the plan to have a Budget surplus in just three years.

“We all went through the global financial crisis, so this is a good thing,” she said.

But Mr Hogan said in the meantime a $40 billion deficit was not good news.

“I see a lot of money being spent, but we are not benefiting here,” he said.

His colleague, the Nationals’ Richmond candidate Tania Murdock, also said limited money was coming into the Richmond electorate.

“We are missing out. It’s embarrassing,” she said.

“We haven’t got anyone representing us properly and it’s getting a little bit hard for people to put up with that.”

Richmond MP Justine Elliot was not available to speak to The Northern Star yesterday, but in a written statement she praised the Budget’s healthcare initiatives.

“I want to see the people of the North Coast live in a community where they feel confident about the health care their loved ones will get when they really need it,” she said.

“This enormous commitment to health and hospital investment will go a long way to bringing that to the people of the North Coast.”

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