SHOW US THE MONEY!
THE announcement that planning approval documents for a Pacific Highway bypass at Bonville will soon go on display has pleased local politicians, but they have one common refrain: 'Show us the money.'
The 9.6-kilometre bypass is planned to run from Perrys Road at Repton to Lyons Road and will save drivers from negotiating the notorious Pine Creek section of the highway.
Wednesday's news from the office of Eric Roozendaal, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Roads, said the documents would be on display from next Monday until Friday, May 27, but contained little new detail about the project.
Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser yesterday questioned the State Government's commitment to financing the bypass.
"I give the news a cautious welcome," he said. "What I would love to see now is an allocation in the May Budget so work can begin.
"I would also like to see the announcement of start and completion dates for the bypass.
"It must be remembered that un-til July or August this year, the RTA website claimed the Bonville bypass was a fully funded State project.
"It was clear from the meeting with Mr Costa recently that he was looking for a Federal contribution for the work."
That meeting with the Roads Minister was attended by Mr Fraser and representatives from Coffs Harbour and Bellingen councils.
Coffs Harbour mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, said yesterday approval of the bypass was 'extremely welcome news'.
"I congratulate Michael Costa on this announcement and appreciate his swift response following our meeting a few weeks ago at which the Pine Creek dangers were discussed," he said.
"However, while the community and council will be supporting this move, we shouldn't become complacent.
"This announcement is just about the public display of planning documents and it could still take years for the project funding to happen.
"What we need to have is a cash commitment from the State to enable work to begin on this notorious stretch of road.
"No one can forget that in the five years since the original plans for a deviation through Bonville were approved, this dangerous stretch of highway has claimed a further eight lives."
Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker said the Federal Government would be keen to help finance the cost of the bypass.
"I welcome any step forward and would dearly love to see the bulldozers start work today," he said.
"I'm also sure (Federal Transport Minister) John Anderson would be delighted to assist with the funding of the project."
The Bonville bypass is not included in the current 10-year Pacific Highway funding agreement between the State and Federal governments that finishes at the end of June, 2006.
The new agreement is being negotiated but Mr Hartsuyker said there was no need to wait for a new deal.
"From a road building point of view we are not far from the end of the 2005-2006 financial year and most of what could be accomplished by then would be preliminary work," he said.
"It would be great if that work could be started now and we could be in full swing when new agreement comes into effect."