COFFS HARBOUR BYPASS – UNDERFUNDED AND DELAYED

The federal budget has confirmed that the government has not put any additional funds aside for tunnels on the Coffs Harbour Bypass.

Further, the government has created a cloud over the start date for the project saying that it is now “expected” to start in 2020.

We were previously assured work would commence in 2020.

The NSW Nationals in January announced the bypass would contain three tunnels. The federal budget includes no additional funding.

Page 235 of the Minister for Infrastructure’s Ministerial Statement says “A further $971.0 million has been committed toward the Coffs Harbour Bypass. The project, which is expected to begin construction in 2020…”. (See note 2)

So, there’s no extra money for tunnels. And only $25 million will be spent by the federal government on the Coffs Harbour Bypass until 30 June 2020 – putting any start date in the second half of the year – if it happens at all. And the budget paper also hides the completion date of the project.

The budget statement raises several questions:

  1. Is the federal government backing down on tunnels for the Coffs Harbour Bypass?
  2. Will the federal government build a bypass with three tunnels within the $971 million granted initially?
  3. Is the federal government capping its commitment to the project at $971 million leaving it to the NSW Government to fund a possible blow-out of up to $300 million due to its mismanagement of the project?
  4. Why does the budget paper no longer show the annual spending allocation on the Coffs Harbour Bypass over three years (forward estimates) (as it did last year) and instead shows the total cost of the project? Has the end date been extended out from 2024 to 2025 or 2026? (See note 1)

The Coffs Harbour Bypass is a full-blown mess:

  • The new National Party Member for Coffs pre-election said he assumed funding would be in the federal budget for tunnels.
  • The outgoing National Party Member for Coffs Harbour pre-election said the state would go it alone on funding $300 million for tunnels.
  • The National Party Candidate for Cowper told a community meeting in March said there would be no money in tonight’s budget for tunnels.
  • The Minister for Roads in NSW has been moved out of her job to another portfolio post-election.
  • The NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) is to be absorbed into the NSW Transport Department, effectively demoting it and may see much of the process re-starting.
  • The local head of the RMS retired just before the state election.

It is one big mess. The truth bypass by the National Party continues.

TUESDAY, 2 APRIL 2019

NOTES

(1) https://minister.infrastructure.gov.au/mccormack/releases/2019/april/budget-infra_01-2019.aspx

(2) https://infrastructure.gov.au/department/statements/2019_2020/ministerial-statement/files/Building-stronger-regional-communities-2019-2020.pdf