Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is constantly reminded about the need for Princes Highway funding on the South Coast, according to Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis.
Following Tuesday’s state government funding announcement, Mrs Sudmalis has made her goal clear; she wants to see significant investment from the Commonwealth in the region’s roads.
Writing a letter to Mr McCormack, who is also Infrastructure Minister, in May, Mrs Sudmalis called for $1.28 billion in unallocated road funding to be directed towards Princes Highway upgrades between Nowra and Ulladulla.
A study is underway to have the highway from Wollongong to Port Augusta recognised as a road of strategic importance, which would see a funding formula prescribed.
“Michael [McCormack] and I sit about two seats away from each other in question time. Just before all the bell and whistles go on, I have a chat to him and say ‘How is our study going?’. It becomes humorous but they know I won’t let it go, the same way I didn’t let the [Nowra] bridge go,” Mrs Sudmalis said.
“Asking ‘How is my bridge going?’ became my mantra, and so now it will be ‘What is happening with the Princes Highway, where are we up to?’.
“I never let go. The highway is the next focus on my list of priorities.”
The road of strategic importance review was expected to be completed by the end of the year. However, Mrs Sudmalis promised she would not be sitting on her hands awaiting the outcome.
She said there were things her government “could and should” be doing for the highway while the review was completed.
“We can’t wait a year, a year and a half for a review to be completed. Whilst I am looking at the big picture, I am also angling to try and get some funding for other hot spots on the highway,” she said.
“Until I we can get it sorted about the Princes Highway being a road of strategic importance or recognised as being part of the national land transport network, then there will be never be a consistent bipartisan funding equation for the Princes Highway.
“Once the review is complete, then we can start negotiating how we can get some consistent and proper funding for our road.”
Mrs Sudmalis said the condition of the highway was “adequate”, saying it was poor driving choices that resulted in loss of life.
If people drove to the conditions, watched the road, weren’t distracted and didn’t drive tired, crash rates would reduce, she said.
From December 2017 to June 2018, eight people have died on the highway between Nowra and Ulladulla.
“There are increasing numbers of people and a lot of people get distracted for different reasons and it doesn’t take much to make a mistake that could end up being quite tragic,” Mrs Sudmalis said.
“Everyone makes a choice in life. If you are playing with your phone, or choose to have a medical treatment outside of your local town, if you drive tired and don’t pull off the road, they are all choices.
“The problem is, if you make the wrong choice, it is going to impact on somebody else’s life. We have to stop being selfish. We have to think, If I take my eyes off the road for a micro section I could make a mistake and cross the line.”
The NSW Government’s funding, which includes installing a roundabout at the Island Point Road intersection, was welcomed by the federal member.
She said the intersection was an “accident waiting to happen”.
“I think it is really good they are investing in that intersection,” Mrs Sudmalis said.
“There are some equally nasty intersections on the highway, and I am sure collectively we are all trying to get funds to get those addressed as well.”