$6 billion for Pacific Hwy upgrade

A GOVERNMENT commitment to fully upgrade the Pacific Highway by 2016 remains in place despite mayors and the NSW Coalition raising doubts about the timeline.

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese, NSW Minister with responsibility for the highway David Borger and Page MP Janelle Saffin yesterday re-affirmed their commitment to complete the project by 2016.

Doubts over the ability to meet the deadline have been raised by Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell, Ballina MP Don Page, Clarence MP Steve Cansdell and Coffs Harbour mayor Keith Rhoades, who have pointed to $6 billion worth of projects that will remain to be done on the highway once the current funding agreement runs out in 2014.

Neither Mr Borger, Mr Albanese nor Ms Saffin were yesterday able to say how the $6 billion would be split between the State and Federal governments. A spokesman for Mr Albanese said details would not be decided until negotiations on the next funding agreement were complete in 2013 or 2014.

Ms Saffin said the deadline was achievable.

“What I say is the Minister has said it can be done by 2016 and that’s good enough for me,” she said.

Ms Saffin and Mr Albanese’s spokesman both called on the State Government to return the $330 million it pulled from its spend on the highway after the 2007 election.

However, they also took a swipe at the Coalition for refusing to commit to the 2016 deadline – even though Mr O’Farrell said the $330 million would be returned the moment a Liberal-National State Government took office, if it won next year’s election.

“I don’t see any reason why the Coalition is not committing to it,” Ms Saffin said. “It’s a cop-out.”

Mr Albanese’s spokesman upped the pressure on the NSW Government to return the $330 million, pointing out the Commonwealth was now handling the bulk of Pacific Highway funding even though the State’s budget was likely to be back in surplus before the Federal Government’s.



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