Lake Macquarie roads
17th November 2021
Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (22:35): Like many regional areas Lake Macquarie has undergone an enormous transformation in recent decades, and with that has come significant population growth and strain on local roads, facilities and utilities. We now have more than 200,000 people living around the lake. We have good jobs growth and significant investment from the private sector in business and manufacturing. But sadly State investment in our local roads has barely kept pace. We now have 200,000 local people shaking their heads when they look a little further south at the billions upon billions of dollars-worth of new roads, tunnels and transport infrastructure being built in and around Sydney. It is fair to say that a small fraction of that money would solve some very big problems in our region.
A little over two years ago a coalition of industry and local government stakeholders in the Hunter region came to me with plans to establish a collective effort to put a spotlight on the problems the region was having with roads. Included in that coalition was the Hunter Joint Organisation, which is a collaborative body representing all 10 councils in the Hunter region. Also represented was the Urban Development Institute of Australia, the Property Council of Australia, the Master Builders Association, the Housing Institute of Australia, Business Hunter and the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan steering committee. The collaboration between those bodies produced a report on the impacts that delayed road projects were having on growth, development and employment in the Hunter. The results were nothing short of mind-blowing. The report found that the detrimental impact of delays amounted to $21.8 billion in construction-associated losses in the Hunter region alone. It also accounted for $15.5 billion annually in foregone operational benefits. Those delays were also responsible for the Hunter region losing 33,931—a very accurate number—construction jobs and 26,689 operational jobs in perpetuity.
I have spoken in the Chamber many times about Hillsborough Road at Warners Bay where in April 2016 15-year-old Jade Frith was accidentally hit and killed by a car. This tragic accident shone an intense light on the safety of our local roads and the urgent need for a significant investment in known trouble spots, and while some minor works have improved the situation, they fall far short of community expectation. This main arterial road is choked during peak periods and contains a number of dangerous intersections that have claimed lives, particularly at the intersection with Crockett Street. To date, more than $4 million has been pumped into a masterplan for Hillsborough Road, but we are still waiting.
However, on a positive note the State Government committed $35 million in this year's budget for safety and intersection upgrades on Hillsborough Road. That project was broadly welcomed by the local community and by me. The investment will widen Hillsborough Road between Crockett Street and the Newcastle bypass and see traffic lights installed at the Crockett Street intersection as well as the Chadwick Street intersection. Preliminary work has already been undertaken. I again thank and acknowledge the Government and roads Minister for that investment.
Unfortunately, Hillsborough Road is not the end of our problems in Lake Macquarie. The State-owned B53 between the M1 and Morisset has become a significant problem in peak times. The B53 is essentially the main road between Morisset and Glendale in the north. It is a busy road, and it is about to get a lot busier with several large developments proposed for the area. Further up the B53 there are major problems with the Speers Point roundabout where traffic is gridlocked during peak times and it is not much better in non-peak periods. I raise this problem all the time and I raised it again in budget estimates hearings. We hear a lot of talk and there are a lot of studies, but unfortunately not much is happening on the ground.
Those intersections and roads are not just frustrating for existing users, they are frustrating growth and development in the area. I do not need to remind the House of what comes out of the Hunter and into the State's economy, particularly from Lake Macquarie. That powerful engine is coughing and spluttering and it is trapped at a gridlocked roundabout. I indicated earlier that this is a $21.8 billion problem for my region, which, according to most, generally requires low-cost solutions. It is certainly low-cost when compared with the major road investments in Sydney's west, north-west and south-west. As we know, these types of problems are not solved overnight or in a single budget, but they need to be solved and solved soon. I do not think there is anyone in Lake Macquarie who does not think that these problems would have been fixed by now if they existed in Sydney. Regional New South Wales, and in particular Lake Macquarie, needs a much greater investment in roads and known blackspots. That investment needs to start now and certainly needs to be included in the next State budget.
Website: Read the Parliamentary Hansard here