Pacific Hwy misses out in $1bn budget

By LEE McDOUGALL

"THIS is wrong."

So said Coffs Harbour mayor and Independent candidate for the State seat of Coffs Harbour, Cr Keith Rhoades, in response to a leak that the Federal budget may contain $1 billion for the Hume and Bruce highways.

The Australian newspaper yesterday reported the May 9 budget will contain $1 billion to finish the dual carriageway project along the Hume Highway and further flood-proof Far North Queensland's Bruce Highway.

Adding further fuel to the fire was comments from National Party leader Mark Vaile.

"There's always budget leaks and stories before a budget, we'll find out when the Treasurer releases the budget, suffice to say, the two highways mentioned, the Hume and Bruce highway... are part of a national highway system which is the responsibility of the Federal Government," Mr Vaile said.

It is this last comment that has raised the hackles of the city's mayor.

"How long have we been saying we want the Federal Government to take over the Pacific Highway as a national highway?" Cr Rhoades said.

"Here is (Mr) Vaile saying that the Federal Government is going to fund the Hume and Bruce highways because they are national highway, and the Pacific Highway is again left out.

"Haven't they heard the cries from the locals and the loved ones of those lost on the Pacific Highway? Three of their (National Party) five seats have the Pacific Highway running right through them, including Mr Vaile's. "They are turning their backs on their own constituents."

A spokesman for Federal member for Cowper, Mr Luke Hartsuyker, said Mr Hartsuyker had been on the record for some time stating that infrastructure funding needed to be a priority for the Government.

"The Pacific Highway must be the focus of any additional infrastructure funding," the spokesman said.

"The Australian newspaper article is correct, in terms of funding for the Hume Highway, then this will free up additional funding from Austlink for the Pacific Highway."



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