The Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP
Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Member for New England
15 August 2023
CALLS FOR THE ALBANESE GOVERNMENT TO DELIVER ON MERRIWA TO WILLOW TREE ROAD
Upper Hunter Shire Council has issued an urgent plea to the Federal Government to deliver on the promised funds for the MR358 Merriwa to Willow Tree Road project. The project, valued close to $50 million, was promised funding by the previous Coalition Government and NSW State Government.
As the 90-day infrastructure pipeline review comes to an end, it is imperative that the MR358 project, the road between Merriwa and Willow Tree, is identified as a top priority. The review, led by Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King, was reportedly initiated to ensure the government's $120 billion, 10-year infrastructure investment is allocated to projects that enhance long-term productivity, economic growth, and regional development.
Last year, Member for Hunter, Dan Repacholi, announced funding for the MR358 project from the Albanese Labor Government and claimed to have delivered what the previous Government, including the former Deputy Prime Minister, could not.
In response to these claims, Mr Joyce said, "The announcement from the Member for Hunter is filled with bold assertions about delivering what we couldn't. The reality is that the people of Merriwa and Willow Tree are still waiting. Upper Hunter Shire Council is still waiting. It's not about who makes the loudest claims; it's about who actually gets things done. Talk is cheap, and photo opportunities don't build roads. It's time for the Federal Government to follow through on their commitment and actually deliver for regional Australia."
Initially recognising the importance of this project and making a commitment to prioritising this project under the previous Coalition Government, Mr Joyce stated, “This important transport link connects the New England Highway to the Golden Highway. Rebuilding this road will better connect our communities, boost local economies and enhance supply chain movement and productivity."
“The MR358 Merriwa to Willow Tree Road is an important freight link for not just the Upper Hunter but the Liverpool Plains as well”, according to Liverpool Plains Shire Council Mayor Doug Hawkins OAM. “Our Council has done our bit by completing our section of this project and we support our good friends in the Upper Hunter Shire by calling upon the Federal Government to release the necessary funding so that this project can be completed. It is long overdue.”
"We made a commitment to our community to deliver this project, and we urge the Federal Government to honour their commitment to fund it," said Upper Hunter Shire Council Mayor Maurice Collison. "Political promises must translate into action. Our community deserves better."
While Council has completed its due diligence and is prepared for construction, the funds committed by the Federal and State Governments have yet to materialise.
Both Council and Mr Joyce firmly believe that the MR358 project fulfils all the criteria for funding under the infrastructure pipeline, including enhancing long-term productivity, supply chains, and economic growth. Both the State and Federal Governments must deliver on their commitments and release the funds for this crucial infrastructure project.
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