PRIVATE MEMBER'S STATEMENT - Maitland Electorate Road Infrastructure

Ms JENNY AITCHISON (Maitland) (19:11): In 2011 the former Liberal member for Maitland Robyn Parker criticised a review by the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] regarding a new rail bridge at Thornton that was needed. She said it needed to be completed as soon as possible. In fact, she said:

Thornton rail bridge was needed in 2009, it's vital infrastructure …

If the duplication of the bridge was vital infrastructure in 2009 and 2011, why has the Government not built it nearly 10 years later? The State Government has not been contributing to the upgrade to connect two major State roads and railway bridges to deal with Maitland's growing infrastructure needs, particularly in Thornton and Chisholm, which is the postcode area of 2322. Maitland—particularly Thornton and Chisholm—is a major regional hub for roads in the Hunter. It connects the Pacific Highway, the M1, the New England Highway and the Hunter Expressway.

The Thornton area has been slated as a major urban growth precinct in Maitland for over 20 years, after significant development of both residential and industrial estates in the 1980s, 1990s and into this century. A $51.17 million road infrastructure upgrade grant application by Maitland City Council was refused in 2018‑19, even though the stamp duty revenue for the Thornton postcode topped $167 million—second only to Sydney CBD—in the 2017‑18 financial year. The council did not expect the State Government to do all of it. The cost of road infrastructure upgrades required in that area is actually $110 million. It is appalling that the State Government has taken so much money from my community. People who have been building houses and coming to Maitland to live and take advantage of cheap and affordable housing have not received that money back from the State Government. In fact, in the past nine years alone the State Government has ripped over half a billion dollars in stamp duty out of Maitland—$570 million, but it has not provided the road infrastructure that is needed.

The other day somebody told me that driving their daughter to school through the Thornton area—normally a three‑minute drive on that road—now takes 45 minutes. The problem has been exacerbated because the State Government has built no public school for the new suburb of Chisholm, so we have massive congestion there. Only a few weeks ago it was exacerbated again by the State Government road upgrades to allow for the new hospital at Metford, which included the removal of a roundabout that had been in use. The former State Labor Government provided $200 million for the Hunter Expressway, $65 million for the third river crossing and many millions for the Metford rail underpass. It commenced the duplication of the Thornton rail bridge. While in government it tried to improve those connections, but nothing has happened to progress that under this Government. When the project to upgrade the road at Metford started a few weeks ago, everybody who had been avoiding Thornton by going to Metford was unable to do that. In its wisdom, the Government put up a sign that told people to go another way. There is no other way.

I am seeking a commitment from the Government to do something about those roads. I have spoken to the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads. I have spoken to the Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter. I have explained to them that the member for Upper Hunter may very soon have members of my community become part of his electorate. Every single day I will door-knock all of those people who are about to become his constituents in two years' time and remind them of how lazy and mean his government has been in not funding the infrastructure that is required for my community. When people from Lorn, Largs and Bolwarra want to go through Thornton to get to Sydney, Newcastle or anywhere on the eastern side, they will thank this Government for nothing. The Government must start delivering better roads.