Treasurer ... Eric Roozendaal.
Treasurer ... Eric Roozendaal.

Pacific Highway funding slashed

FUNDING for a crucial upgrading of the Pacific Highway was slashed in the State Government’s mini-budget yesterday.

The State Government has capped its contribution to the Pacific Highway upgrades at $500 million, a $113 million drop from a Budget commitment made in June.

Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, called the move ‘a disgrace’.

"The complete upgrading of the Pacific Highway should have been completed in 2006, yet to date only 60 per cent has been finalised," Mr Fraser said.

"There are just too many deaths on the highway and those sections that have been completed have completely gone over budget."

The State Government claims NSW contributions to upgrading the highway have exceeded the Commonwealth’s by $1 billion, putting the onus on Canberra to substantially fund the highway upgrade and other infrastructure projects in order for them to proceed.

Member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, said the Federal Government pledged $2.4 billion to the Pacific Highway project until 2014, an election promise Mr Hartsuyker says must be delivered despite State funding cuts.

But NSW Business Chamber chief executive officer, Kevin Macdonald, said while economics have their place, fixing the Pacific Highway is also a ‘moral issue’.

"The highway is a handbrake on the local economy, creating transport bottlenecks and scaring away investment and job creation," Mr Macdonald said.

"Upgrading the road will create additional capacity for transport and make the road safer."

Cutting the funding is aimed at freeing up $400 million to plug a $917 million deficit identified by the mini-budget, with Treasurer Eric Roozendaal claiming the aim is to maintain ‘job-creating infrastructure investment...in a financially responsible way’.

"This is the largest infrastructure program of any government in Australia over the past four years," Mr Roozendaal said.

But Mr Fraser is unconvinced.

"There have been a succession of Roads Ministers over the years and problem is that no one has been in the portfolio long enough to properly understand the great need for funding for this vital upgrading work," Mr Fraser said.

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