ABC Central Coast—Interview with Scott Levi

Interview

DCI022/2016

07 December 2016

Subjects: the Black Spot Programme on the Central Coast roads

Scott Levi: 92.5 ABC Central Coast 24 past seven and we know Central Coast roads can be deadly. Just yesterday three cars running off The Ridgeway, garbage trucks running into each other at Kariong causing traffic chaos. Think back to the tragic death at Willoughby Road Wamberal earlier this year when a teenage boy died in a car accident and the terrible death of a young mum of four on the Scenic Highway at Terrigal. While there may not be any money in the coffers to improve these roads at the moment, the Federal Minister for Transport and Infrastructure is checking out some of our road black spots on the Central Coast, particularly as our population increases dramatically. The Minister, Darren Chester, in this portfolio will be the guest of Lucy Wicks, the Member for Robertson today. Good morning, Minister Chester, thanks for having a chat with us.

Darren Chester: Good morning Scott.

Scott Levi: What's the purpose of today's visit?

Darren Chester: Well Scott I started yesterday; I left Sydney, I'm driving right up the coast to the Queensland border. It's about first of all checking on progress on the Pacific Highway Project, which is obviously our major project, more than $10 billion being spent via the Federal Government and the State Government on that project.

Scott Levi: I've got a friend who's a truckie contractor, Cole, he's up there with his trucks at Kundabung and Kempsey at the moment.

Darren Chester:Yes it's quite an extraordinary project and in addition to doing that trip, promoting road safety because we've had a particularly poor year in New South Wales this year in terms of road trauma. Lucy Wicks, the local Member of Parliament here in Robertson asked me to visit her part of the electorate given the experiences you've had this year with some horrific road crashes which has resulted in deaths and serious injuries and she's going to take me around and show me some of the areas that have been identified by the community as potentially applicable for black spots funding through the Federal Government. We have about—in the order of $500 million we put into the Black Spot Programme and Lucy's been able to secure more than $3 million for ten black spots already in the community but there's a couple of projects she's particularly worried about in areas of road which have been the scene of some serious incidents this year that she's keen to let me know more about and understand what some of the challenges are for this growing community. It's a beautiful community but a growing community means extra pressure on infrastructure.

Scott Levi: Yeah for sure. If they're council or state roads, what part can a federal government play?

Darren Chester: Well that's a great question, we work very closely with the state governments and local governments on our road program. We have in the order of $11 million going to the Central Coast Council through the Roads to Recovery Programme, where council can decide its own road priorities. But in addition to that, we have the Black Spot Programme because we understand if you invest in safer roads, you're going to actually save lives in the community. So we have this program right across Australia where community groups or councils or in this case a local member of parliament like Lucy Wicks can apply to the Federal Government to seek funding. So it's a good program, it's one where I'd like to see more money put into it in the future because I recognise that some of those engineering treatments aren't that expensive but they can actually save lives.

Scott Levi: If people have some ideas for safer road infrastructure, can they make a submission to their local member or to you? How do people go about …

Darren Chester: The normal process is it comes from the local community up so it goes through local residents identifying a problem on a road they travel regularly. They may make application through their council or through Lucy as a local MP and it comes to the Federal Government for consideration. Now there's a couple of areas we're looking at today which have obviously been the scene of serious crashes this year, and the Council is working towards putting some plans to us on how they might be able to treat the road, a road treatment that might make drivers slow down, be more aware of their circumstances and drive to the conditions. And hopefully they'll be the sort of projects that can be supported in the future and will help to reduce the amount of road trauma we're experiencing in New South Wales at the moment.

Scott Levi: Look I know distractions one of the issues too. I think we should talk about that at another point because I think it's probably contributing to a lot of the stats, you know, the mobile devices in cars. It's terrible isn't it?

Darren Chester: There's no question driver distraction is playing an increasing role in road trauma and we just encourage people to be aware of their surroundings, take responsibility for the people in their own vehicle but also other vulnerable road users like pedestrians or cyclists and we all have to do our little bit to work in partnership to reduce road trauma.

Scott Levi: Yeah the Get the Hand Off It campaign's a good one. Thanks for your time.

Darren Chester: All the best, travel safe.

Scott Levi: Yeah same to you, Darren Chester there, who's on a fact finding mission today on the Coast looking at some black spots.