BYPASS: Deputy PM says changed guidelines part of the mix
DEPUTY Prime Minister Michael McCormack has spoken of "changed guidelines becoming part of the mix" when answering questions about delays on the Coffs Harbour Bypass.
The reference was in relation to the tunnels, which had long been anticipated by the community, but removed in the 'preferred concept design' released last year.
"When we put down the 971 million dollars as part of the Commonwealth's 80 per cent contribution to this important project that is what we thought was required.
"That's what we provided and of course the community and others then wanted tunnels so we're happy to look at that. We said we would and Pat Conaghan campaigned on that and we will build tunnels.
"Having changed, I suppose, the guidelines a little bit, this has become part of the mix."
Mr McCormack was in town to announce the official opening of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's regional headquarters in Coffs Harbour.
He was also unable to commit to the long-promised 2020 start date saying simply he was "very hopeful".
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project has been delayed several times with the latest mid-2019 deadline now passed but Mr McCormack was unable to provide any clear advice on when it would be released.
"I'm hoping it's going to happen within the next week, within the next few months.
"So you know, I'm hoping within the next few weeks I get that advice on the table but the fact is these things do take time," Mr McCormack said.
"I appreciate the forbearance of the community."
The deputy PM also seemed to imply the State Government was dragging the chain.
"I am waiting for the State Government to provide me with more information."
While he couldn't provide any update on the EIS he was clear in his commitment to tunnels.
"We will build - as Pat Conaghan said many many times in the election campaign - the tunnels.
"We will work cooperatively and collaboratively with the State Government and we will build the tunnels. That's what the community wants. I welcome the community engagement.
"I welcome the State Government to provide me with more details and when we get those details we will certainly make sure we build the Coffs Bypass that the community wants; the community expects; and most of all the nation deserves."
He touched on the funding arrangement for the long-awaited project saying he was working closely with his State counterparts Andrew Constance (the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure) and Paul Toole (the Minister for Minister for Regional Transport and Roads) to get the project done.
"I work collaboratively with the ministers all the time in NSW and when I get that advice we will work together to find the necessary funding to make sure we get this Coffs harbour bypass built."