NATIONAL party stalwart Duncan Gay is defending his Bells Line of Road legacy in the face of crossbench jibes government had ‘failed’ to start work on a Blue Mountains expressway in his six years as Roads Minister.
In recent weeks the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party has been chipping government – particularly NSW Nationals MPs – for ‘dragging their feet’ on building a highway that links Sydney with the western regions, via the Blue Mountains. Orange MP Phil Donato has even been photographed with a 2007 newsletter from Mr Gay promising Central West residents an expressway.
But Mr Gay, who retired in July last year after losing his portfolio in a reshuffle, said Mr Donato had resorted to ‘historical revision’.
“(Mr Donato) is now being reduced to scoring petty political points for Labor whose spending record over the Great Dividing Range is worse than useless,” Mr Gay said.
“When the Nats came into power, we said we’d lock in Bells Line of Road corridor. This means that the road cannot be built out by residential developments.
“This was achieved. Whatever happens, that road can always be expanded to meet demand and is safe from urban sprawl. The route is permanent”.
In January Roads Minister Melinda Pavey, who replaced Mr Gay in cabinet, told The Central Western Daily the issue was important but didn’t commit to an expressway or any major overhaul of transport links over the Blue Mountains.
“Any final design solution must weigh the economic benefits with the cost to the taxpayer,” she said.
Meanwhile Nationals’ Parliamentary Secretary for Western NSW Rick Colless called for a quick and safe road over the Great Dividing Range in the next year or two.
In his letter to The Land Mr Gay said spending on Central West roads projects had risen 220 per cent since 2011, while 10 overtaking lanes or major crash site upgrades had been made on Bells Line of Road in the past three years.
“Labor do not, never have, and never will spend a cent in the country,” Mr Gay said.
“Virtually nothing was put into the either the Bells Line of Road or the Greater Western Highway for decades until the Nats and Libs got back into Government (in 2011).
“Mr Donato is probably a nice guy who has been led astray by his Sydney masters, and is now left with nothing but historical revision to offer the people of the Central West.”
Mr Donato had earlier questioned why government was spending $2 billion on new stadiums in Sydney instead of committing to an expressway. He suggested adopting a European approach of ‘tunneling through’.
“Getting through the mountains has to be the priority. If you get that link between Hartley and Windsor or Richmond, that’s the most difficult section,” the Orange MP said.