In yesterday’s state budget the government refused to budge on its 20 per cent offer towards funding the full duplication of the Pacific Highway, meaning that goal is not now likely until at least 2020.
While roads minister Duncan Gay announced $5 billion of spending on the state’s roads, less than $1 billion was earmarked for the Pacific Highway in the next financial year.
On the positive side, there is $240 million to start work on the Pacific Highway upgrade between Tintenbar and Ewingsdale and $63 million to continue work on the dual carriageway upgrade between Woolgoolga and Ballina.
The federal government has yet to be drawn on what will become of its 50 per cent offer, after previously indicating it would be contingent on the state stumping up the rest. The most likely scenario is that the feds will only match the state’s contribution dollar for dollar, pushing out completion of the highway considerably.
Federal Page Labor MP Janelle Saffin took a swipe at her National Party state colleagues, saying the decision to cut funding to the road ‘puts a real dent in their political credibility. It was a big campaign issue… and they haven’t been able to deliver,’ she told ABC radio this morning.
But state Ballina MP and north coast minister Don Page said the state simply couldn’t afford a 50/50 split. ‘I think we’ve done reasonably well in a tight monetary situation,’ he said, adding that revenue from GST was well down on the previous year.
Head of the Pacific Highway task force Richie Williamson questions what will happen to the federal government money now the state has decided not to match it. He added that the community would like to know the timetable, the works plan and the funding agreement.