CANBERRA MATTERS COLUMN
MERYL SWANSON - FEDERAL MEMBER FOR PATERSON
Once again last week I found myself in an all too familiar posi tion - on the roadside at Tester's Hollow calling for funding to raise Cessnock Road above flood levels.
State Member for Maitland Jenny Aitchison and NSW Shadow Minister for Roads and Transport Jodi McKay were, once again, calling on the State Government to move to alleviate the flooding.
You might remember Federal Labor pledged $10million to the project during last year's election campaign, and a week later the Liberals upped that by promising $15million.
I met last month with the Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester, and he assured me that all election promises would be honoured.
If that is the case, and I will take him at his word, there is $15million in Federal money waiting to be spent at Tester's Hollow.
The upcoming Budget will reveal whether he is serious.
One point Minister Chester did make to me, however, was that the project would need to be a priority for the NSW Government as well.
I therefore wrote to the NSW Minister for Roads, Melinda Pavey, and urged her to make Tester's Hollow a priority.
I know the project is not in Sydney, where this State Government prefers to spend our money, but it is very important to our region.
The cost to surrounding communities was most severe in the April 2015 flood with residents being isolated for a week and the road being closed for 17 days, cutting off communities and creating great difficulty for many in getting to work, to school, and accessing vital services.
We have also seen the loss of a life because of flooding of this road, and we do not want to see that ever again.
All levels of government need to work together to support a solution for this road.
As Jodi McKay said last week, this is a State road, and while the Federal money goes a long way to seeing this road upgraded, it is not enough to stop these communities from being isolated.
We have heard in the past an independent report suggested a solution to raise the road to 9.7 metres (above the 100-year flood level) would cost $117 million.
Other options outlined in the Worley Parsons report were to raise the road to 6 metres at a cost of $8.6million, and 5.4 metres at a cost of $7.3million.
But these would not protect the road against a 100-year flood. Knowing there is $15million available in Federal money, the NSW Government must conduct a new appraisal of the options, taking into account the 2015 superstorm.
This is a priority for me, as I know how many people it affects.
If you want to add your voice to the campaign to raise the road at Tester's Hollow, you can write to me and I will pass those letters and emails on to Federal Minister Darren Chester and State Minister Melinda Pavey.