When Fairfax Media’s South Coast mastheads launched the FIX IT NOW campaign in March, we knew it would be a long journey. And we knew that like any journey it would start with small steps, some of them significant.
Our meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Shadow Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese was one of those significant steps.
While we didn’t turn on the federal cash tap – and we never thought it would be as simple as that – we did get both sides of the political divide to agree a bipartisan approach was necessary to ensure federal involvement in fixing the Princes Highway.
In a week in which the political heat was turned right up – the final sitting week of the federal parliament – securing a meeting with senior members from opposing sides was no small achievement. Nor was extracting a joint statement highlighting the need for all levels of government and all political parties to work together.
From the outset, we have said making the South Coast road artery safe and efficient ought to be above politics. Now, we see two senior federal political figures agreeing.
That is an important step.
We also secured an in-principle agreement for both politicians to visit the South Coast in the new year to see for themselves some of the worst areas of the highway.
This is important because being told of the human stories behind the roadside memorials lends urgency to taking action.
As most people look forward to year’s end and a well-earned holiday, newsrooms the length of the NSW coast – and particularly on the South Coast – are bracing for the influx of visitors and the tragedy that too often comes with it.
We relayed this to Mr McCormack and Mr Albanese, wanting to impress upon them the human dimension of our campaign.
The FIX IT NOW campaign will next year become even louder as we head towards two elections – the state votes in March, the country in May.
While we welcome the interim safety improvements being implemented by the NSW government, we don’t forget they are just stopgaps.
With the duplication of the Pacific Highway now nearing completion, we want to ensure the Princes Highway south of the Jervis Bay turn-off is in the box seat to get the same attention. And we will be relentless in prosecuting our case.