Hillsborough Road Safety

By leave: I refer to the discussion regarding the much‑needed safety upgrade of Hillsborough Road. I congratulate the member for Charlestown on having worked so hard to get this issue placed on the agenda. There is bipartisan support for this issue and it is one that we want to resolve very quickly. It has been the tragic death of a young woman like Jade Frith that has led to this discussion, a life cut short, a family left to grieve and a community asking why more could not have been done to prevent this loss of life. I pass my condolences onto Jade's family and friends. I know the member for Charlestown has previously raised her concerns about the Hillsborough Road to the Government, and an upgrade to this road has been on the agenda for some time.

Hillsborough Road is not alone; it is a Hunter road in need of a long-awaited upgrade. In 2008 I raised the issue that a pedestrian overpass was required and then subsequently one was built across the New England Highway near my home in Thornton after the death of two young boys in early 1990. The overpass cost $2.5 million, a massive amount of money to spend for that structure, but it was the only way for the Government to overcome the traffic difficulties. I can remember at the time talking to the Federal member for the Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbons, and the then member for Maitland, Frank Terenzini, and asking them what price was life. I told them we needed to invest in it because a new community would be built there with lots of schoolchildren.

Again, like the Hillsborough Road accident that brings us here today. The member for Port Stephens reminded me earlier of the death of a young resident, Reuben Sutherland, in 2015 which led to an increased focus on the Nelson Bay Road corridor study that is currently underway. These are all issues that the shadow Minister for the Hunter, the member for Charlestown and indeed all Hunter members have been following particularly closely. We will be holding the Premier to his commitment for funding these projects.

Unfortunately, in too many road projects from this Government we see the tunnel vision of transport planning. Departments are tasked with building a new road or rail project and give little consideration to how these transport projects will interact with pedestrians, cyclists and other transport users. Labor has long advocated for a Hunter Transport Authority, a standalone section of the Department of Transport to co-ordinate transport planning in the Hunter region for that reason. Too often the concerns of local residents, local members, local mayors are ignored while decision makers in Sydney base their decisions on what will make the best headline, not what local people need.

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