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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Deputy PM visits Testers Hollow upgrade work

Testers Hollow soared into the spotlight in 2015 following the April superstorms, when a section of Cessnock Road was cut in both directions due to flooding.

It saw the community of Gillieston Heights, which at the time was around 2,000 people, completely isolated for six days.

Fast forward five years, and $17 million worth of work is finally underway to raise the stretch of road, to prevent history from repeating.

Today, Tuesday 24 November, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack visited the site, to see how work is progressing.

“Maitland people will be over the moon to see this upgrade go ahead,” Maitland Mayor Loretta Baker said.

“Testers Hollow has always been a tricky spot for us and people who are isolated in minimum rain really, it doesn’t take a big flood, so we are really happy to see this go ahead.”

Just weeks ago, construction began to build a new two-lane road, around 900 metres in length and 1.5 metres higher than the existing road.

Mr McCormack said the investment will help hunter communities enjoy a safer and more reliable Cessnock Road during flood events.

“This project on Cessnock Road, Testers Hollow is going to make such a difference for the thousands of commuters who use this road each and every day,” he said.

“We can’t have the economies of the Hunter, Maitland and Cessnock held up by more than a week, we can’t have traffic stopped and diverted elsewhere, and that’s why we are increasing this road by 1.5 metres.”

New South Wales Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said the project is expected to be completed in early 2023.

“When you see about 16,000 vehicles that use this section of road every day you know it’s important,” he said.

“When we’ve seen the flood in the past, when we’ve seen the road cut off, it’s actually adding an additional 20 minutes to the trip of locals in this area and it shuts communities off, people can’t get to work, people can’t get to childcare, people can’t do those normal activities they do each and every day.”

Today’s visit wasn’t well received by Paterson Labor MP, Meryl Swanson who said she worked hard for the upgrade.

“I’m quite shocked the Deputy PM is in my electorate and didn’t invite me along, maybe my invite got lost in the Australia Post mail,” she said.

“I tell you what, he wouldn’t even know where Testers Hollow was if it wasn’t for me raising it as an issue.

“When I ran for election in 2016, it was one of my top three priorities.

“We made an election commitment to fix Testers Hollow they (the coalition) matched it.

“I’ve been pushing for the road to be raised between Cliftleigh and Gillieston, so they won’t be stranded when Testers does go under in flood.”

These are remarks the Deputy PM quickly shot down.

“Meryl Swanson is not in government, she’s not delivering,” Mr McCormack said.

“When you’re not in government it’s then pretty hard to take credit for things that are happening.

“This project is happening because Michael Johnsen got behind it and supports his local communities.

“It’s got nothing to do with Meryl Swanson quite frankly and we are actually getting on and delivering for the Hunter.”

Work underway at Testers Hollow. Photo: Peter Stoop