Reaction from the Hunter region to the 2019-20 federal budget – M1 motorway extension funding ‘certainly long overdue’

By Nick Bielby

Newcastle Herald, April 3 2019 

Long-awaited funding for the link between the M1 motorway and Raymond Terrace has been welcomed by Hunter and road advocacy groups, with one describing the commitment as “certainly long overdue”.

The government’s $1.6 billion allocation to build the extension was the big ticket item for the Hunter in the Morrison government’s first federal budget, handed down on Tuesday night.

Richard Anicich, chair of Committee for the Hunter – a network that includes Newcastle Airport, Hunter Business Chamber and the Hunter chapters of the Property Council of Australia and the Urban Development Institute of Australia among its members – said on Wednesday he did not know the funding was coming, but he was “certainly glad it’s there”.

Mr Anicich said it was “great news” the M1 extension would proceed, but other important Hunter infrastructure projects also needed to be brought forward, including upgrades to Tomago Road, Cabbage Tree Road and Nelson Bay Road.

He said the M1 extension funding was “certainly long overdue”.

“It’s incredibly significant for a number of reasons. One, it unlocks some of the traffic jams around that region, but most significantly it is a point of future investment and jobs growth,” Mr Anicich said.

“It will help to unlock land around Beresfield and Black Hill and, significantly, it creates better access to the airport.”

Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes also welcomed news of the funding and said he hoped it would strengthen the case for expediting upgrades to other significant roads.
“Improved access to Newcastle Airport and the Port of Newcastle is imperative to realising the region’s potential as a global gateway for NSW,” he said.

“Upgrading of link roads to these assets will support their growth, boost tourism and trade opportunities and improve connectivity and safety. We also welcome the additional funding for Bucketts Way, Clarence Town Road and the Tenterfield-to-Newcastle corridor.
“Improving connectivity to our rural towns helps stimulate business and the funding is an acknowledgement by the federal government of the challenges regional and rural councils face in maintaining road infrastructure.”

The federal government will fund 80 per cent of the M1 link, with the state to contribute the remaining 20 per cent – about $400 million.

The NSW government allocated $4.3 million to the project in the budget it handed down last June, while it allocated $5 million the year prior.

Planning of the extension began in late 2004 and a refined design was released in 2010.
According to Roads and Maritime Services, the link will be a 15km double lane, dual carriageway that bypasses Hexham and Heatherbrae, with interchanges at Black Hill, Tarro, Tomago and Raymond Terrace.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury told the Newcastle Herald the M1 link had been in the motorist group’s budget submissions for at least a decade.

“It’s been in planning mode for a long time,” he said. “It’s a really important part of that larger project of making sure the connectivity right up and down the coast of NSW is safe and efficient.

“It’s pleasing to see the commitment is as significant as it is.” While the infrastructure funding was welcomed in some corners, the Hunter region’s federal Labor MPs criticised other aspects of Tuesday’s budget.

Paterson MP Meryl Swanson said it failed to deliver the immediate action that residents living in the Williamtown PFAS red zone needed.

“It took blood, sweat, tears and a class action against the Department of Defence for my community to get a look-in and instead of addressing this nationwide disaster, this budget has funded yet another study into remediation of PFAS contaminated soil,” she said.

Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon said he was disappointed that the Glendale Interchange and Singleton Bypass had been overlooked.

Shortland MP Pat Conroy also criticised the government over the lack of funding for the Glendale Interchange.

Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon welcomed funding for more research into PFAS, but she said she “would have liked to have seen a greater investment in the University of Newcastle”.

Ms Claydon said there was no money to rebuild the Boscawen Street Bridge, which she had raised as an issue of priority with the deputy prime minister in terms of flood mitigation at Wallsend.