One of the eight fatalities on nearby stretches of the Pacific Highway in 2010.
One of the eight fatalities on nearby stretches of the Pacific Highway in 2010.

Keneally questioned on highway

THE NSW Opposition has stepped up its campaign to address the state of the Pacific Highway on the North Coast.

In State Parliament on Tuesday, Opposition spokesman for roads Andrew Stoner queried Premier Kristina Keneally on what he said was a lack of action by the State Government on upgrading the Pacific Highway along the North Coast.

“Given that the Premier found the time to announce new bike paths at Randwick, yet ignored the invitation from four North Coast mayors to drive the Pacific Highway, and that she responded to the by-election result not from her candidate’s function in Penrith, but from Darling Harbour, will she now admit she has not ‘humbly listened’, but has continued to ignore the needs of families and suburban and regional NSW?” Mr Stoner asked.

The Premier replied money allocated in the Budget for NSW roads had actually increased.

“In relation to the Pacific Highway, the NSW Government has invested a record $4.6 billion in NSW roads. That is the biggest road investment program in the history of NSW, an increase of $300 million on last year’s record budget,” Ms Keneally said.

She said the increase in expenditure for roads formed part of a wider increase of funding for rural and regional NSW.

“The Government is delivering record investment in rural and regional communities in the 2010-11 Budget, including, of course, as I have just outlined, a record investment in roads,” she said.

Pressure is being applied to the Keneally Government to increase spending on the highway between Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay. The horror stretch has claimed at least eight lives this year alone.

A spokesperson for the Member for Clarence, Steve Cansdell, claimed a letter had been forwarded to Ms Keneally last Friday by Mr Cansdell on behalf of families who had lost loved-ones in accidents on the highway.

The letter appealed again to the Premier to tour the region’s roads, after previous invitations from the region’s mayors had been rejected. In early February, mayors from the Clarence Valley, Richmond, Ballina and Coffs Harbour LGAs sent letters to Ms Keneally and State Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell inviting them to tour the Pacific Highway between Coffs Harbour and Ballina.

Mr O’Farrell took up the offer in April, the day after a fatal crash at Little Italy, but the Premier is yet to follow suit.

Mr O’Farrell’s touring car had three near-misses during the trip.

Another crash north of Ulmarra on Sunday night has again highlighted the notorious strip of road, given that metres from Sunday’s debris was the site of a crash in February which claimed the life of 27-year-old Nathan Zanuso.

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