The NSW Opposition has vowed to make the Pacific Highway upgrade a priority following criticism from outgoing taskforce chairman Richie Williamson.
The NSW Opposition has vowed to make the Pacific Highway upgrade a priority following criticism from outgoing taskforce chairman Richie Williamson.

Pacific Highway plan questioned

THE NSW Opposition would not put a ‘time or date’ on when or how much funding they would commit to the problematic Pacific Highway upgrade but have said it is their ‘number one priority’.

The comments follow a parting shot from outgoing Pacific Highway Taskforce chairman Richie Williamson– also the Clarence Valley mayor – that the Opposition’s failure to produce its plans for the Pacific Highway is ‘not good enough’.

Cr Williamson, who will contest the State seat of Clarence as an independent candidate at the NSW election in March, has stepped down from his highway taskforce role. Mark Troy, Mayor of Bellingen Shire, will act as chairman throughout Cr Williamson’s election campaign.

The Nationals State MP for Ballina, Don Page, accused Cr Williamson of using his position inappropriately.

“The obvious point to make here is Richie Williamson is using the Pacific Highway Taskforce to score a political point, which I think is inappropriate,” he said.

“We are still five months out from the election and a lot of announcements we have made are more general, broader policy initiatives. The particular project announcements will be done later.”

The Opposition would create an additional $5 billion infrastructure fund, $1.6 billion of which would be dedicated to regional areas, Mr Page said.

“So, we will be obviously using some of that on the Pacific Highway (upgrade),” he said.

The upgrade is forecast to be completed by 2016. Nationals MP for Clarence Steve Cansdell said the Opposition needs to know how big “the black hole is” before it makes a financial commitment.

“It’s all right to appease people with timelines before an election, but we don’t know how big the black hole is going to be, and to make a financial commitment is totally irresponsible,” he said.

“We have said this is our number one priority and you can’t get clearer than that.”

When asked if he was using the highway taskforce as a way of political point scoring, Cr Williamson said the group always lobbied government.

“The taskforce has long lobbied for commitment from all persuasions of government,” he said.

“That is not the first time we have lobbied the Opposition.”


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