Budget keeps Hunter in planning stages


Most of the Hunter Region’s big-ticket transport and infrastructure projects received nominal funding beyond the planning stages in the 2019-20 State Budget.

Three-and-a-half million dollars was allocated to John Hunter Hospital’s Health and Innovation Precinct – less than 0.5% of the projected $780 million total cost.

Hunter Business Chamber president Hennie du Plooy said that while it was a “modest portion” of the overall cost, it was important to see a commitment to getting the project under way.

“This is a very significant project for our region, with a forecast completion date just seven years away,” Mr du Plooy said.

It was the same for the Lake Macquarie Transport Interchange, to which the government allocated $400,000 for further planning, and improvements to Hillsborough road – described by Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison as a traffic choke point between Newcastle and Lake Macquarie – which received $2.7 million towards planning and pre-construction.

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said, given the financial challenges the state government faced, he was pleased to see it honour its promises on some projects.

“I’m among the many people who would have liked to have seen a significant commitment to the Lake Macquarie Transport Interchange project, but the reality is that the business case review is still being undertaken,” he said.

“I’d also like to have seen the Hillsborough Road improvements fast-tracked, but note the government has committed [funds] this year to get things moving.”

Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery noted the absence of any construction funds for the final stage of the Newcastle Inner City Bypass, which the business chamber agreed it would press the government to expedite this and Muswellbrook and Singleton bypasses to “construction stage” in future budgets.

The chamber did express its disappointment at the “lack of significant funding” to advance planning for the Lower Hunter freight rail bypass or corridor preservation, which it flagged as a key regional priority.

In Port Stephens, $37 million was earmarked for the Nelson Bay Road duplication.

This represented less than 15% of the project’s total cost.

“[It] has been delayed yet again,” Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said.
“Instead of the two-year completion date promised by the premier, it’s likely to take another seven or eight years.”

Meanwhile, a notable $13.4 million was awarded to start work on a new, $25 million indoor sports stadium at Hillsborough, and a further $54 million will be spent on the construction of the new Maitland Hospital at Metford, bringing forward its completion date 12 months to June 2023.

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