Thursday, 8 September 2022
Merriwa to Willow Tree Road
I rise today in the Federation Chamber to talk about a road that I have been fighting for for some time for the farmers, after arriving home in the seat of New England. Back in 2016, we got $5.4 million from the Commonwealth as part of a $12 million package to do up the Merriwa to Willow Tree road. The reason this road is important is that it's an alternative route across the Liverpool Range—as opposed to the New England Highway. If the New England Highway gets shut down, this is the road you go along. We did what looked like a marvellous job. The road was sealed. It was a beautiful road that went up over the range. But then it rained and the road fell into the creek. Since that time, we haven't had a second range crossing, and the people who live either side of that range have to go about a further 60 kilometres to get round.
I know the government, at this stage, are talking about their wage summit, and I appreciate the sentiment of what they're trying to do there. If people want to get to work—and there are some massive feedlots on one side and grain and cattle on the other side—it's really important that we allow them to actually get to work. This is something that has been forced on us, but we've got to fix it. It's going to cost around $40 million to fix. I want to thank the minister, Catherine King, for the meeting we had yesterday with both the mayor, Maurice Collison, and also the shire's general manager, Greg McDonald. Minister King gave us a fair hearing, and I want to thank her for that. It's important that people understand that we've heard this morning about billions of dollars for a rail line, but we're talking about $40 million for people to get to work.
I think it's incredibly important that, being a government for all, vital infrastructure such as this is fixed, because it speaks to all the things we want to do. We know that, 'Cities don't build roads; roads build cities,' and economies are built on the capacity for product to move from one area to another. This is vital infrastructure not only for New England but also for the Hunter Valley. It's well known that it's the alternate route to get to one of the major federal highways to go north and south in our nation.
I hope that it's within the government's remit that, as we go to the budget, we have the capacity for this piece of infrastructure. In the whole scheme of things, it's not large, but, in the realm of the Upper Hunter and southern New England, it's absolutely vital that it is restored. We need to get away from this perverseness of a brand new road that comes to an absolute dead end when there are people on either side who can't go from one town to the other.