The excuse used by the federal government and Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis that the Princes Highway is a “state road and their responsibility” will no longer wash with state MP Shelley Hancock.
Comments from Mrs Hancock in Parliament on Thursday, April 12, follow a recent Commonwealth commitment to the Queensland Government of an 80/20 funding model for upgrades to state roads.
“The excuse given, ‘It is a state road and it is their responsibility’, for why no investment has been made into the Princes Highway does not wash any longer when we consider the commitments made on state highways elsewhere,” Mrs Hancock said.
“The Pacific Motorway and the Bruce Highway are state highways that have received 80/20 funding agreements. Two weeks ago the Commonwealth Government entered into a 80/20 funding agreement with the Queensland Government to deliver upgrades to the Bruce Highway, committing $150 million, which comes on top of $530 million in funding already allocated by the Commonwealth Government to the Bruce Highway between Bribie Island Road and Steve Irwin Way.
“Recently $1 billion was committed for the construction of two projects on the M1, with the Commonwealth entering into a 50/50 funding agreement with the Queensland Government to deliver those upgrades.
“This is on top of the Commonwealth Government committing $225 million in funding for Pacific Motorway projects in the same region.”
Mrs Hancock believed the state government was doing its part to upgrade sections of the Princes Highway, but needed the federal government to come on board with funding.
Recent safety improvements to the highway on the South Coast include a wire road divider and road widening at Bendalong, the scene of a fiery crash on Boxing Day in which five people were killed.
“The Commonwealth spend on major infrastructure work on the Princes Highway has been disappointing, to say the least,” Mrs Hancock said.
“The state government has done a great deal of work and it will continue delivering upgrades to the Princes Highway, irrespective of any funding agreement.”
During her address in Parliament, Mrs Hancock also commended the efforts of Fairfax Media’s Fix it Now campaign, which calls on all levels of government to commit to a funding model for major Princes Highway safety improvements.
She praised Milton UIladulla Times and South Coast Register editor John Hanscombe for spearheading the campaign and “highlighting the importance of upgrading the Princes Highway”.
“On far too many occasions the front pages of Fairfax papers have contained images of those who have lost their lives on precarious sections of the Princes Highway,” Mrs Hancock said.
“As part of the Fix it Now campaign, those photos are once again covering the pages of local publications in an effort to put a human face on the tragic loss of life we on the South Coast have experienced recently, and over an extended period of time.”
In the past 18 months, 10 people have been killed in road crashes on the South Coast section of the highway, Mrs Hancock said.
“That is totally unacceptable; one life is too many,” she said.
“I am proud to join and support the Fix It Now campaign and use this opportunity to again call on the Commonwealth Government to provide an 80/20 funding split to ensure we can get on with improving safety on the Princes Highway and delivering what South Coast residents expect, and are now calling for.
“I congratulate all involved with the Fix It Now campaign. They have an advocate in me.”
Since being elected to office in 2011, the state government has committed more than $2 billion to the Princes Highway on the South Coast. This includes upgrades at Gerringong, South Nowra and Termeil, the Berry bypass, and the progressing Berry to Bomaderry upgrade.
Mrs Hancock said she would continue to work with Roads and Maritime Services, the Premier, Kiama MP Gareth Ward and relevant ministers to identify the most dangerous sections of the highway.
“My priority is to address those precarious and dangerous intersections along that highway, particularly Island Point Road,” Mrs Hancock said.
“At this intersection we have already seen loss of life and urgent safety works must be undertaken. I will continue to work with the ministers and RMS to identify further safety works that are required on the highway to ensure we are able to increase safety for motorists in the near future.”