‘It’s a state road’: Princes Highway funding fight continues

Treasurer Scott Morrison with Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis during his post-budget roadshow visit to Nowra on Wednesday. Picture: Robert Crawford

Treasurer Scott Morrison with Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis during his post-budget roadshow visit to Nowra on Wednesday. Picture: Robert Crawford

An Illawarra state Liberal MP says he’ll continue to fight his own party federally after Treasurer Scott Morrison failed to offer a cent for the Princes Highway during a visit to Nowra this week.

Mr Morrison was full of praise for the NSW government’s highway upgrades but wouldn’t be drawn on whether the Turnbull government would help fund the ongoing work.

“These are state roads at the end of the day,” he said. 

The comment didn’t sit well with Kiama MP, and Illawarra parliamentary secretary, Gareth Ward – who has long called for Commonwealth assistance.

“When Joanna Gash was the federal member she very effectively secured funding for the North Kiama bypass and the Lake Conjola deviation,” Mr Ward said.

“The federal government seems to have no problem partnering with the state government in roads like the Pacific Highway, where there’s an 80/20 funding split.”

Mr Ward also cited a partnership between the federal and Victorian governments to fund work on the Princes Highway in Victoria.

The Commonwealth will spend $88.4 million in 2017-18 on three Princes Highway projects in Victoria. 

“I’m sick and tired of the Commonwealth trying to play games on the Princes Highway [in NSW],” he said.

“We want those funds to finish the job and I will continue to put acid on them because I believe this should be a partnership.”

The government revealed a $75 billion spend on infrastructure across the country over the next decade in this year’s budget.

The budget also included $13.8 million for the Far North Collector Road project, which will connect Illaroo Road in North Nowra to Moss Vale Road.

No new money was offered for the Nowra bridge.

Mr Morrison said the Far North Collector was a “critical road project which paves the way to ultimately do the upgrade of the bridge”.

The Treasurer dodged questions about funding the bridge during his “budget roadshow” visit to Nowra on Wednesday and asked Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis to respond.

“We put in $10 million in the 2013 election, which is almost expended, for the planning and the environmental studies and engineering studies,” Ms Sudmalis said.

“The state government hasn’t finalised the cost yet, so until we get those numbers I can’t go knocking on Scott’s door saying ‘I want X amount of dollars’ until I know what the ‘X’ is.

“We’re expecting that number sometime before the end of this year.”    

Mr Morrison said the state government could use the proceeds from the Commonwealth buying NSW’s share of the Snowy Hydro Scheme to “invest in important state infrastructure projects”.

“That can include the Princes Highway, there’s no reason why it can’t,” he said.

‘Show us the Snowy money’

The NSW Opposition has flagged it will support the sale of the state’s share in the Snowy Hydro Scheme – on the condition that every dollar from the proceeds is spent in regional areas.

Treasurer Scott Morrison revealed in this year’s budget the Commonwealth was looking at outright ownership of the scheme.

Snowy Hydro Limited is owned by NSW (58 per cent), Victoria (29 per cent) and the Commonwealth (13 per cent).

Illawarra Labor MPs, including Treasury spokesman Ryan Park, want the region to reap the benefits of an estimated NSW windfall of $4 billion.

“This is about ensuring regions are given just as big a priority as Sydney and that proceeds are going to exactly where they are needed,” Mr Park said.

Wollongong MP Paul Scully said Labor’s commitment showed the city and region “would never be the poor cousin of Sydney”.

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