Relentless pressure will be brought to bear on state and federal politicians to take action urgently to upgrade the Princes Highway south of Nowra.
FIX IT NOW, a campaign by Fairfax Media’s South Coast newspapers, was launched at the Mollymook Beach Bowling Club on Friday.
Speakers, including South Coast MP Shelley Hancock and former Gilmore MP Joanna Gash, agreed pressure needed to be applied if the goal of extracting an 80-20 funding formula to enable a major upgrade was to be achieved.
“After Easter, we want to call a couple of town hall meetings, one in Ulladulla, another in Batemans Bay,” South Coast Register editor John Hanscombe told the March 16 meeting.
He said pressure was best exerted by telling everyday people’s stories, from those who travelled the highway.
“We need to put pressure on Canberra and Sydney and the way to do that is numbers.”
Mr Hanscombe said the community had an important role to play by sending letters to the editor, to their parliamentarians, to ministers, and by gathering in large numbers to make it clear the highway needed to be upgraded.
“I won’t be letting up,” he said.
Patricia White spoke movingly about her group’s ongoing push to improve the road.
“The deaths have really affected me over time,” the chair of the South East Australian Transport Strategy (SEATS) told the meeting.
She said there had been 10 fatalities on the highway in 18 months and her message to all levels of government was clear: “You need to start doing this now.”
“The RMS would start this upgrade tomorrow if they could,” Ms White said.
“They know what needs to happen, but they need the money.
“We should not be arguing about how much money we need to have.
“They just need to make the commitment.”
Ms White said SEATS had the data to show the highway’s needs trumped other NSW regions.
“We should be at the top of the list,” she said.
The North Coast had large airports and efficient public transport, but the South and Far South Coast relied overwhelmingly on the Princes Highway.
Former Gilmore MP Joe Gash said she had driven many times from the Southern Highlands, through the Shoalhaven to Batemans Bay.
“It is a deadly road,” she said.
Former Federal Police officer Grant Schultz said fixing the highway was a “no brainer”.
While some people might always show a “reckless disregard for the road rules”, Mr Schultz said smarter roads saved lives.
“We can design roads to minimise the consequences of those actions,” he said.
South Coast MP Shelley Hancock told the gathering pressure must be applied to all politicians to make it clear the highway should be upgraded and a commitment made to an 80-20 federal-state funding agreement.
“Make it personal,” she urged the meeting.
Lisa Elmas, who was first on the scene of the Boxing Day tragedy on the Princes Highway, north of Bendalong, which killed an entire family, urged the community to unite for the cause.
“We need our community to get together to support these roads being upgraded to make the highway safer for all of our family and friends,” she said.
“Whatever we can do to prevent fatalities happening on our roads, the better.”
Warning people to slow down, drive safer and abide by the roads rules, Ms Elmas said the scene of the fiery head-on crash would stay with her forever.
“I can’t express enough how difficult it is to go though a traumatic, horrific accident like that for everyone that helped and was involved,” she said.
“The rescue services do an amazing job continuously, every single day.”
If you are concerned about the highway or would like to tell your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org