Macadamia Castle owner Tony Gilding is a keen supporter of providing government funds to upgrade the Pacific Hwy.
Macadamia Castle owner Tony Gilding is a keen supporter of providing government funds to upgrade the Pacific Hwy. Marc Stapelberg

Castle owner welcomes funding

IT'S BEEN more than nine months since a petrol tanker narrowly missed him moments before it exploded at the bottom of Tintenbar Hill, but Tony Gilding still can't hear the sound of metal on metal without seeing that horrifying crash.

So news yesterday the State Government plans to pump $1 billion into the Pacific Hwy over the next year came as a relief.

For Mr Gilding, who owns the Macadamia Castle on the highway at Knockrow, the December 31 tanker explosion came after years of campaigning for safety improvements to the Pacific Hwy. It also came only weeks before the northern section of the Ballina bypass was opened to traffic, forever removing from the highway the black spot at Tintenbar Hill.

The highway is by far the North Coast's biggest winner from yesterday's NSW Budget, picking up a total $3.6 billion over four years, including $1 billion to be spent this financial year.

The spending finishes the Ballina bypass and the Sexton Hill upgrade at Banora Point, which will create an unbroken run of upgraded highway between Ewingsdale and Brisbane and remove the last set of traffic lights on the highway between Ballina and Brisbane.

It also pumps $90 million into the long-awaited Ewingsdale to Tintenbar upgrade, which is scheduled for completion in 2014, and tips $40 million into planning and pre-construction work on the neglected Ballina to Woolgoolga stretch, which includes the infamous "tired zone" around New Italy.

Clarence MP Steve Cansdell said the budget delivered on commitments made by the Coalition ahead of the election.

The funding was also welcomed by NSW Business Chamber's Northern Rivers regional manager John Murray, who said his organisation wanted to see "report cards" from the government every six months on the highway upgrade until it was complete.

Mr Murray said the report cards would help maintain government accountability for the project.



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