FURTHER BLOW TO THE COFFS HARBOUR BYPASS – THE NATIONALS BACK DOWN ON FUNDING FOR TUNNELS IN THIS YEAR’S FEDERAL BUDGET

The National Party tonight confirmed that there would be no additional funding contained in the 2 April 2019 federal budget as to honour a commitment to include tunnels in the Coffs Harbour Bypass.

The National Party Candidate for Cowper, Mr Patrick Conaghan, tonight told a candidates’ forum organised by the Coffs Bypass Action Group that no funding would be included in the budget to be delivered by the Treasurer.

This is a major blow to the project and now throws into doubt the 2020 start date promised by the Nationals. As with all major infrastructure projects, the Nationals can’t start or finish a project on time and they usually come in way over budget.

It is astounding to think this has happened with the Coffs Harbour Bypass even before a shovel or hard hat has come out of the back of the work truck.  

The Nationals have been in government in Sydney since 2011 and in Canberra since 2013 yet in 2019 we’re still way off getting a design for the Coffs Harbour Bypass with three tunnels that the community supports.

They’re simply not up to the task of delivering the single largest road infrastructure project ever between Sydney and Brisbane.

Mr Conaghan tonight contradicted the National Party state candidate for Coffs Harbour, Gurmesh Singh, who a month ago said he assumed federal funding would be in the April Budget. It also contradicts statements in the media by the retiring state member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, that the state government would fund the entire $300 million additional cost of the tunnels.

The Nationals are not on the same page. They can’t get their stories straight. The truth bypass continues.

Mr Conaghan refused tonight to disclose how much the tunnels would cost, maintaining the Nationals secretive approach to the project.

Mr Conaghan also committed to the meeting that he would urgently seek written confirmation from both the Deputy Prime Minister and federal Minister for Infrastructure, Michael McCormack, and the NSW Premier Gladys Berijiklian that the bypass would contain three tunnels.

He said he would also seek written assurances that they are ‘real’ tunnels – similar in design and appearance to the twin-tube St Helena tunnel near Byron Bay. Mr Conaghan ruled out the cut and cover ‘tunnels’ and or land bridges.

I am pleased to see Mr Conaghan concede that his superiors in the federal and state governments have botched the management and communication for this project.

I assured the meeting that Labor is committed to delivering the Coffs Harbour Bypass by matching the announcement in last year’s federal budget. When the additional cost of the tunnels is known, we will be in a position to consider a proposal from the NSW Government, the project manager for the bypass.

WEDNESDAY, 6 MARCH 2019


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