GRAIN Valley Way and a strengthened Roads to Recovery program are still on the agenda for the Federal Coalition, according to the Shadow Roads Minister Darren Chester.
Mr Chester and The Nationals candidate for New England, Richard Torbay, yesterday toured the region's roads yesterday, visiting in particular the unsealed sections of Grain Valley Way, as well as highlighting the progress to date on the Gunnedah Rail Overpass, before meeting with Gunnedah Shire Councillors and staff to discuss Local Government infrastructure prioritiesd.
Gunnedah Mayor Owen Hasler said the wide-ranging discussion touched on decentralising state and federal decision making and departments and greater recognition of Local Government as the best conduit for delivering local and regional projects.
Cr Hasler said the meeting also raised the ongoing issue of Grain Valley Way as well as concerns over increasing traffic levels on the Kamilaroi Highway.
“Traffic levels have been increasing exponentially over the past decade, and we can only expect that to continue as we build the HML (Higher Mass Limit) bypass,” Cr Hasler said.
“Grain Valley Way has been an ongoing issue through successive governments and one which the previous council had allocated money toward in the budget.
“We raised the need for greater federal funding for regional projects such as Grain Valley Way, and asked for the Coalition’s ongoing support for the Roads to Recovery program.”
The visit was part of a two-day tour through the Northern Tablelands and wider New England to provide Mr Chester the opportunity to meet with a number of councils and to discuss key infrastructure priorities for the next term of government.
Mr Chester, said he had been meeting with Local Government around the country in recent months to get a first hand look at projects needing federal support.
“The concerns raised by Gunnedah councillors reflect the same issues as have been raised by many other regional councils,” Mr Chester said.
“Bridges, roads maintainence and upgrades, road safety and increasing traffic levels are common concerns as well as the need for additional funding to meet the shortfall in infrastructure spending.”
Mr Chester said the Federal Coalition was committed to continuing and strengthening the Roads to Recovery program, which was implemented by John Anderson and the Howard Government.
“My discussions with councils have highlighted the fact there is a need for additional funding in the Roads to Recovery program, to help Local Government meet infrastructure funding shortfalls and deliver worthwhile projects at a regional level,” Mr Chester said.
Mr Torbay said Grain Valley Way was an excellent example of where Federal Government support direct to Local Government could help deliver improved infrastructure, not only for the local community, but the wider economy.
“Having been out there with the former Mayor, Adam Marshall, I was pleased to be able to take Mr Chester for a drive out along the unsealed sections of Grain Valley Way, to show him first hand the need for Roads to Recovery to continue and be strengthened,” Mr Torbay said.
Mr Torbay said while he was visiting Gunnedah as a Federal candidate, he was pleased to have the ear of the Shadow Minister for Roads in both the New England and North West as the Member for Northern Tablelands.
Following yesterday’s meeting, Mr Torbay and Mr Chester met with Tamworth Regional councillors, and then Uralla and Walcha, while this morning, the pair shared breakfast with the Mayors of the Northern Tablelands.
“I’m combining the two roles, to ensure our concerns are also heard at a Federal level,” he said.
Cr Hasler said the Gunnedah Council would also be highlighting Grain Valley Way as a regional priority with Member for New England Tony Windsor.
The previous council met with Mr Windsor to discuss infrastructure priorities including Grain Valley Way at the beginning of the current term of government and also wrote to Mr Windsor highlighting a number of infrastructure priorities.
“Mr Windsor, wrote to congratulate councillors following the recent Local Government elections and offered the opportunity to discuss Federal and Local Government issues, which I intend to take him up on,” Cr Hasler said.