Motorists throughout Maitland and Port Stephens could soon find themselves driving on better thoroughfares in their respective electorates.
Labor this week pledged to allocate more than $29 million for urgent upgrades and emergency road repairs if it wins government at the NSW Election on 25 March.
It follows 12 years of alleged neglect by the Liberals and Nationals, compounded by floods and a failure to invest in regional maintenance.
The party’s package consists of $15 million towards planning and early works for the duplication of the Thornton Rail Bridge and $2.5 million to replace the timber structure at Melville Ford, although joint disaster funding was announced for the latter by the state and federal governments for the same amount.
Another $10 million will be spent on projects across Port Stephens, including Fairlands Road (Medowie), Italia Road (East Seaham), Tomaree Road (Shoal Bay) and Rookes Road (Salt Ash).
A further $1.8 million, through Labor’s new Emergency Road Repairs Fund, is expected to address the road maintenance backlog in both LGAs.
In 2019, the NSW Government vowed to reclassify and transfer up to 15,000 kilometres of roads to help lift the burden on councils.
But, it remains unfulfilled.
In fact, in the past four years, a total of zero kilometres of regional roads has been transferred.
Maitland City Council’s request for a number of roads, including Metford Road and Buchanan Road, to be signed over to the state was also unsuccessful.
“Mayors and councillors have expressed extreme frustration at the government’s broken promise on road reclassifications,” Shadow Minister for Roads John Graham MLC said.
“And, they’re demanding action now.
“For more than a decade, the government’s overseen billions of dollars of spending on toll roads in Sydney at the expense of roads in the regions.
“Labor is committed to supporting councils to fix the local roads that people use every day to get to work, the kids to school or to medical appointments.”
Maitland state MP Jenny Aitchison admitted she was keen to rectify the situation as soon as possible.
“Maitland is projected to grow to a population of 144,536 by 2041,” the Shadow Minister for Regional Transport and Roads said.
“Our roads cannot cope with the more than 90,000 people who use them today.
“A 60% increase will bring our network to a standstill.
“Labor’s commitment of over $19 million [to Maitland] towards key connecting roads will provide much-needed cost of living relief for council and people in the local community by repairing their damaged roads and delivering the roads that are needed.
“Duplication of the Thornton Rail Bridge started under the former Labor government.
“But, unfortunately, the Liberals and Nationals have failed to complete it in the last 12 years, even when Robyn Parker was the member as a Minister in the current government.
“In 2012, they even lifted the cap on development on the bridge, meaning that more homes could be built in the Thornton and Chisholm area without them having to even lift a finger in terms of providing the infrastructure we require.
“Under the Liberals and Nationals, they’ve refused to provide real solutions and, at every opportunity, have delivered half measures.”
Ms Aitchison said regional roads in Port Stephens were ignored, too.
“This includes Medowie Road, Clarence Town Road, Seaham Road and Lemon Tree Passage Road,” she stated.
“So, we’ve seen regional roads deteriorate to the point that they are now dangerous to residents.
“The crisis is a cost-of-living issue for locals, with blown tires, damage to rims and radiators.
“Port Stephens state MP Kate Washington has been a terrific advocate for her community.
“She’s campaigned for this urgently-needed road repair and upgrade funding.”
Ms Washington welcomed the windfall.
“Labor’s commitment of more than $10 million towards roads is great for our community and council,” she said.
“Residents are fed up with the state of them and sick of damaging their cars.
“Our community cannot afford to wait for the Liberals to act.”
For more election stories:
- Maitland Hospital’s nurses, midwives at ‘breaking point’
- Lower Hunter organisations join forces to improve region’s domestic violence services
- Too hot: Greens call for urgent extreme heat action
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