Bypass under Senate Budget Estimates committee's microscope
FIGURES regarding an estimated cost of constructing the Coffs Harbour Pacific Highway Bypass haven't been received by officials from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.
The revelations that no plans have been received at the department came during a Senate Budget Estimates committee hearing held in Canberra this afternoon.
While the NSW Government is funding the planning of the bypass, further questioning at the hearing regarding costings for the project also revealed discussions with Macquarie Street about funding its 20% share of the bypass haven't been held either.
In the past, the timeline given for the beginning of construction of the Coffs Harbour bypass has been after the completion of the Woolgoolga to Ballina section of the Pacific Hwy upgrade.
The Coffs Harbour bypass was listed by Infrastructure Australia in February last year as a national priority but today's comments from the Department's secretary, Mike Mrdak, creates doubt as to whether a start date of 2020 or 2021 for the initial stages of construction on the project is achievable.
When asked to possibly give a timeline for the bypass, Mr Mrdak's response was non-committal.
"We would certainly see this as a project which would be needing to come into the pipeline, certainly by the early 2020s," Mr Mrdak said.
Mr Mrdak made similar comments on February 27 at a previous Senate Budget Estimates Committee hearing when he said no money had been allocated to the bypass between now and 2019-20.
HANSARD TRANSCRIPT (PART)
Senate Budget Estimates Committee hearing - Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development - May 22
Ms Sarah Leeming and Mr Mike Mrdak were speaking as representatives of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.
Senator Glenn STERLE (ALP): It would be good if you could do that before you knock off. Let's go to the Coffs Harbour bypass. Can you please advise if the federal government has seen a detailed plan for the Coffs Harbour bypass?
Ms Sarah Leeming : No, we have not.
Senator Glenn STERLE (ALP): Do you expect to see one very soon?
Ms Sarah Leeming : I understand that the New South Wales government is planning to brief us on where they are up to with the Coffs Harbour bypass. Those briefings have not occurred as yet. It is similar to our discussion before about Nowra and the Bridgewater Bridge; it has certainly been mentioned to us as a priority of the state.
Senator Glenn STERLE (ALP): They have told you they want to talk to you but they have not given you an indicative timetable?
Ms Sarah Leeming : For when they want to talk with us or when they want to-
Senator Glenn STERLE (ALP): When they want to talk to you.
Ms Sarah Leeming : I have requested a briefing at the next high-level catch up we have on the Pacific Highway. In about two weeks' time we will probably get that.
Senator Glenn STERLE (ALP): Have there been any discussions about funding for the bypass?
Ms Sarah Leeming : Not specific discussions. The New South Wales government is aware that we do not have any available funding in our program at the moment.
Senator Glenn STERLE (ALP): When you say 'not specific', what you mean?
Mr Mike Mrdak : We have not received a detailed proposal which includes the capital cost of the project. We know New South Wales has been doing planning work, but we have not seen a detailed proposal of the cost envisaged for the bypass.
Senator Glenn STERLE (ALP): Do you have any indication of what the figure may be around?
Mr Mike Mrdak : Not to any degree of certainty. There has been talk in the past of around the $1 billion mark, but I could not give you an accurate figure, not having seen the planning work.
Senator Glenn STERLE (ALP): Not having seen it, you would struggle to give us a realistic date, then, for when construction would start-is that right?
Mr Mike Mrdak : That is correct. New South Wales and the Australian government certainly see the Coffs Harbour bypass as a priority post the completion or nearing the completion of the Pacific Highway duplication program. So we would certainly see that as a project that needs to come into the pipeline, certainly by the early 2020s.