Northern rivers councils would have access to $247 million to upgrade roads throughout the region if the Labor party wins Saturday’s election.
Deputy Opposition leader Linda Burney made the promise in Lismore this morning, flanked by ALP candidates for Lismore, Ballina and Tweed.
Lismore’s mayor Jenny Dowell described the announcement as ‘brilliant’, and urged candidates from other parties to match it.
‘Councils need this money,’ she said.
Ms Burney made it clear that the money was in addition to the $177 million already promised for a new bridge at Grafton.
She also said the $247 would be set aside without privatising the electricity network.
The fund would be available to member councils of the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils (NOROC), with grants for local road projects determined by RMS.
Eligible councils include Tweed, Byron, Ballina, Lismore, Kyogle and Richmond Valley.
Deputy Labor Leader Linda Burney said the $247 million fund would be reserved out of Labor’s infrastructure plan A Better Way.
In total, Labor’s statewide infrastructure plan unlocks $10.055 billion of additional investment.
She said the independent Parliamentary Budget office affirmed the costings on Monday.
‘By contrast, UBS – the Baird Government’s own consultants – say only $11 billion will be raised from the privatisation of the electricity network, not the $13 billion the premier is claiming,’ she said.
‘This is a $2 billion black hole in the Liberals’ and Nationals’ costings.
‘Labor’s $247 million fund is also in addition to the money already in the state budget for northern rivers roads every year, including the Pacific Highway duplication.
Ms Burney said councils across the region face a major infrastructure backlog when it comes to roads and bridges. This is a result of growing populations and the wear and tear caused by resident, visitor and freight traffic.
Lismore council is understood to have a roads backlog of $84 million while Byron shire council’s backlog is $70 million. Kyogle Council requires an additional $25 million just to upgrade timber bridges.
‘Roads and bridges on the northern rivers are in urgent need of upgrade and repair – and a vote for a Country Labor candidate on Saturday will ensure that they receive the vital investment they need.
‘Unlike the Nationals, we will not make any road upgrades conditional on selling electricity assets.
‘My message is clear – if you don’t want electricity privatisation or coal seam gas, it is vital to number every box and put the Nationals last when voting on Saturday.”
Lismore candidate Isaac Smith said it was a great package.
‘Our local roads are in desperate need of this additional funding.
‘There is a huge backlog of works in Lismore relating to safety upgrades, bridge maintenance and general wear and tear.
‘These projects are too important to be made hostage to electricity privatisation. ‘Now that UBS has exposed a $2 billion hole in the Coalition’s costings, projects promised by the Nationals may never be delivered.”’
Ballina candidate Paul Spooner said the Nationals were trying to blackmail the people of Ballina.
‘The Nationals are telling the people of Ballina – cop the privatisation of electricity and we’ll buy you off. That’s blackmail.
‘Our community shouldn’t have to rely on a risky asset sale plan down in Sydney to fund road upgrades.
‘Under Labor, funding for Northern Rivers roads has been reserved and the Parliamentary Budget Office has given the costings a big tick.”
Tweed candidate Ron Goodman said the key drivers of the local economy, including tourism, agriculture and industrial freight, required roads.
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