Lake Macquarie Electorate Roads

19th October 2023

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (17:45): Road-related issues are one of the most frequent, if not the most frequent, matters about which my office currently receives complaints. I dare say I am not the only member in this place who has this problem. But with one of the highest growth rates in an already highly populated area of the Hunter, we have a glaring problem. If there is one thing that makes residents infuriated—and understandably so—it is sitting day after day in the same traffic bottleneck with no plans in sight to resolve the problem. While traffic congestion may seem like an inconvenience that is simply part and parcel of the modern world, it has a real day-to-day negative impact on our lives and our economy. Traffic congestion takes away from our precious time with our families and loved ones. It causes stress and frustration, it can affect our mental health and it impacts the economy by increasing business costs and lowering productivity.

Along with education, health and emergency services, road and transport infrastructure and maintenance are some of the most important responsibilities of government. I acknowledge that road responsibilities span all levels of government—local, State and Federal. Sometimes this shared responsibility works to exacerbate delays and seemingly absolves particular governments of responsibility for projects. But while we argue around whose responsibility a project is or how much funding is allocated by a particular level of government, projects are delayed and the frustrations of community members grows.

Two essential road projects in my electorate—the Speers Point roundabout and the Mandalong Road upgrades at Morisset—are currently experiencing significant delays. This is causing frustration and anger within my community. Both the Speers Point and Morisset areas of my electorate have experienced significant residential development and growth over recent years, but planning and construction of infrastructure projects to support this expansion have not kept pace with residential growth. Residents are now stuck dealing with daily traffic congestion seven days a week.

Much to the relief of residents, in recent times funding announcements were made in relation to both these projects. But, since those announcements were made, the community has not received updates and has not seen any further progress on these projects. In the 2022 budget the Government at the time announced $5 million in funding for the Speers Point roundabout upgrade, with the current Government committing to $6 million in funding early last month. In 2022, $56 million of Federal Government funding and $20 million in State Government funding was also announced for the Mandalong Road upgrades at Morisset. In last month's State budget the Government announced funding commitments for both of these projects.

I appreciate the Government's commitment to both of these essential projects. However, I note a lack of clarity around these funding commitments within the budget. For example, the Speers Point roundabout previously had $5 million allocated with an additional $6 million, but we cannot now find the original $5 million. Rather than a combined $11 million, it appears we only have $6 million. I have written to the Minister's office seeking further clarification around the funding commitments and I eagerly await her reply. I understand costings for infrastructure projects are a difficult science, particularly with rising construction costs over recent years. But significant changes in funding commitments substantially limit options available to planning bodies in terms of solutions that can be proposed to address these congestion issues.

My constituents have welcomed the announcements made in respect of both projects, but they are becoming increasingly and understandably frustrated. The community has waited long enough for some clear plans on how these significant issues will be addressed. The community needs to see action. The community needs to understand that there is an end in sight to the frustrations and delays. As we await details and plans for these infrastructure projects, housing and industrial projects are approved and already - approved developments are completed. Congestion further increases, as does the community's fears and anger about the Government's commitment to these projects and the prospects of these projects being shovel ready anytime in the near future.

While we desperately need to increase our housing supply in the State—and no-one can argue Lake Macquarie is not carrying its fair share of housing development — there is also a point when further private development and growth is inhibited by the lack of infrastructure, or plans for infrastructure, to support proposed projects. I fear we may have reached that point in Lake Macquarie. I want to work with the Government to ensure the Mandalong Road and Speers Point roundabout projects get underway as soon as possible. The first step is to clarify the details of the funding commitments to both those projects and the planning timelines. These details will at least give my community some comfort that work is progressing and that there is a light at the end of the traffic tunnel. I look forward to working productively with the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads.

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