Coffs has a roads minister to deliver a bypass
TORN in two by the Pacific Highway and what impact a future Coffs Harbour bypass will have on the economy, the local community has again been assured the national motorway will skirt the city in only years to come.
As discussions were held in Canberra this week on the funding future of Coffs Harbour's Pacific Highway bypass, NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey gave assurances the 14km project is still scheduled to happen soon.
Public uncertainty was cast over construction time frames this week, with a Senate Estimates Hearing being told a business plan for the bypass is still a 'year to 18-months' off being handed over to Infrastructure Australia, which labels the bypass a 'priority project.'
This means the bypass is unlikely to see the Federal Government commit funds to the highway's deviation around Coffs Harbour in the upcoming Federal Budget, the Opposition says.
At present, only NSW Government funds - of which some $200 million is committed to the billion dollar project - is being used by Roads and Maritime Services for the carrying out of geo-technical studies, community consultation and route finalisation planning.
Ms Pavey, the Member for Oxley and a long-time Coffs Coast resident, gave a resounding commitment to the bypass, as the state's most influential politician on the traffic matters and road projects.
"I'm really proud of the work that RMS is doing at the moment, so that we are ready once the dual carriageway (Arrawarra to Ballina) is finished," Ms Pavey said.
"It is a very strong commitment from our government and from the Commonwealth via Luke Hartsuyker that we have the bypass of Coffs.
ON THE PACIFIC HWY DUPLICATION
"We are also very cognizant of the fact that Luke Hartsuyker is right across this as is the local member Andrew Fraser that we have a commitment to get a bypass for Coffs Harbour.
"It's been a very difficult issue for this community over many years, but I'm really pleased to see that we are planning well. We are getting things organised and the commitments are there.
"A lot of the economy in this community is based on the proximity of the highway so it's a difficult process, but I understand very strongly the community just wants to get on with it.
"It's there, it is happening ... the money is there from the State Government and the Federal Government is committed, but there is a lot of planning to go on with.
"No I'm not going to put it out there and give a date because we have the other work that we are committed to doing to make the highway as safe as possible.
"I think it would be irresponsible of me to give a (construction start) date because the worst thing we can do is let people down.
"It has been started and it is our commitment once the Ballina to Grafton work is done the next job is here."
Last February, RCA Australia was awarded the tender to undertake geotechnical work for the Coffs Harbour bypass and Arup was named by Mr Hartsuyker as the successful tenderer of the development of the Coffs Harbour Bypass Environmental Impact Statement and refined concept design.
Ms Pavey assumed the road ministry in the Berejiklian Government last month after almost 14 years in the Upper House and a career as a media advisor for former Deputy Premier Wal Murray, Minister for Administrative Services Matt Singleton, Minister for Consumer Affairs Wendy Machin and National Party leader Ian Armstrong.
ON BEING APPOINTED NSW ROADS MINISTER
"It's good again for the North Coast to have a voice at the Cabinet table like this," Ms Pavey said.
"We are spending record amounts on infrastructure in the regions ... since 2011 the increase in spending on the roads budget is 105% with 65% of that coming to regional and country NSW.
"Partly that is due to the fact we have a good working partnership with the Federal Government.
"When Warren Truss was Deputy Prime Minister he stumped up and we got the 80% commitment to the Pacific Highway coupled with the 20% commitment from the State and that is transforming our region."
Ms Pavey said works are on track by the RMS and its contractors to deliver full dual carriageway of the Pacific Highway north of (Macksville) and north of Arrawarra by next Christmas.