Transcript of Joint Press Conference: Eastbourne Avenue Road Reservation, Wahroonga NSW
05 February 2015
Joint release with:
Hon. Duncan Gay
NSW Roads Minister
Hon. Paul Fletcher MP
Parliamentary Secretary for the MInister for Communications
Hon. Philip Ruddock MP
Member for Berowra
Subject: Start of work on $3 billion NorthConnex project
Duncan Gay: …That was the commitment we made at the last election. There were six missing links in Sydney and we would build one of those missing links before the next election. We would start on one of them. We've not only started on one of them, today we're starting on the second one and in fact the other one that we've started on, which was the M5 West Widening, we've finished. It was some of the same people that are standing here with me today that were involved in the M5 West. So, it's about making commitments—not wild promises, proper commitments, to fix problems that are here. It's not building for the sake of building; it is fixing up the congestion and the traffic to make our lives better in this city.
I welcome the local members and particularly my Federal colleague Jamie Briggs. Half the money in this that has come from the governments comes from the Federal Government, a commitment made very early in opposition by the now-Prime Minister and followed up ably by Jamie. I don't think there is a South Australian that knows Sydney roads better than Jamie does; he could probably name it better than some of the people in Sydney. That's probably an indication that we're building infrastructure in New South Wales, there are thousands of jobs that will come out of this infrastructure. People will be working, people will be delivering a better outcome for the city; 5.3 metres high, higher, wider, flatter, better. Better air and a better outcome out of this.
We've gone through probably the toughest EIS ever in this city and what we've got now is the best result. Where we're standing today for the sod turning is the first part. This beautiful park will be where the road head enters, it builds a tunnel—not directly below us but near us—about the height of the Sydney Opera House below us. So, if you put a Sydney Opera House on top of the tunnel, that's where they'll be going in. At the end, this park will return to the way it is today.
So, that's a great result. This is a fabulous day for the people of the Central Coast, the people of Sydney, the local members I know—Philip, Paul and Matt, NRMA for being here as well as Scott Charlton who put the unsolicited bid in through our process. It's been a hard, long process, but there's been goodwill all the way. The people from RMS that are standing here, the people from the contractors that have delivered it, this is a great outcome today and I think this is probably one of the proudest moments I've had as a Minister for Roads, to be here for this sod turning today.
Jamie Briggs: Well, Duncan, like usual, under sells the work that Duncan's done. There is the almost 10,000 jobs which is fantastic and really necessary. I think Duncan's under sold it, but it will be, in effect, the completion of the national freight network. When this road is built, there will be far and few traffic lights between Melbourne and Brisbane, it will be extraordinary.
Trucks will go from Melbourne to Brisbane, bar a couple of traffic lights around Coffs Harbour, pretty much free flowing. When I was a junior backbencher in the Opposition, I was privileged to sit right next to the Member for Berowra and he used to scream out every question time: what about Pennant Hills Road? What about Pennant Hills Road? Well, Philip, we're fixing Pennant Hills Road. And to Paul Fletcher who's been an advocate. Lucy Wicks, who's not here, but has been a tireless advocate. Karen McNamara has fought hard for this project as well. This is absolutely city changing. It is job creating. It's what governments should get on and do. This is what we are doing in conjunction with the best Premier in Australia, Mike Baird and the best Roads Minister in Australia, Duncan Gay.
I'm privileged to be here today as part of this. I'm looking forward to using those shovels and letting these guys get on and start construction. Can I just finish with—Lend Lease is a great Australia company and they'll do a great job with this but I think people should understand just how much of a contribution Scott Charlton—who is not necessarily Australian by birth, but his company is proudly Australian company, working in the United States, ironically, but contributing enormously here. This project would not have happened without Transurban's ingenuity and the work they put in. And I want to put on the public record my great respect for Scott and his company. This is happening because of Scott and his company.
So, it's great to be here, it's a great day. This is what being in government is all about. We are building, creating jobs, making a better Australia because of Duncan Gay, Scott Charlton, Philip Ruddock, and Paul Fletcher. Thanks so much.
Philip Ruddock: If I can just take a moment to say thank…
Jamie Briggs: And Matt…
Philip Ruddock: Yes, I have campaigned very hard. There are good reasons for it. People get held up in the traffic, heading to and from the Central Coast and I think that was one of the reasons that the Prime Minister became an advocate for this is because he got held up when heading to the Central Coast.
Jamie Briggs: He still advocates for that, too, by the way.
Philip Ruddock: Putting that to one side, the constituents of my electorate are affected every day with the mixture of trucks. This is a major thoroughfare, people just wanting to take their kids to school. And their safety—I mean, if we get this finished without a major incident on Pennant Hills road. I always worry about the potential danger of mixing heavy industrial traffic on what are expected to be suburban roads. And if people understand that, the importance of urgency is so apparent. So, I am delighted that we are starting.
Scott Charlton: Thanks Minister and thank you for those kind comments. I'm actually an Australian by choice. I wasn't lucky enough to be an Australian by birth, but Australian by choice. So, it is a great day for Transurban. We are very excited to be here. We think the benefits for the community, as the Ministers talked about: sustainability, the environment, what it's going to mean for the motorists. This is one of those, again, one of those win-win solutions and we're very, very proud to have the unsolicited proposal. But none of that works unless the government and local members support and have the vision to work with companies like Transurban and our partners in a very collaborative manner. It has been, I think, setting a record for time and being able to work together and again, in outcomes for sustainability and the environment, motorist experience—a holistic approach that's been done. And again, it wouldn't have been done without the Government working with the private sector in a very collaborative and open approach. It can be difficult in these days and times, but all credit to the Minister, the Minister's office, particularly RMS, who has quite a few people behind the camera here who have done a tremendous amount of work they can be very, very proud of. And now, we want to set standards with our contractors for safety and community engagement as we go to the delivery phase and we look forward to celebrating the opening quickly, in a shorter period than the forecast four years—but we'll keep the pressure up on the contractors.
Jamie Briggs: Hear, hear.
Paul Fletcher: If I could just add a brief comment as the Federal Member for Bradfield. I am confident that this project will significantly improve community amenity in the suburbs that are seriously affected by congestion on Pennant Hills Road today: Wahroonga, Normanhurst, Thornleigh, Waitara and so on. We will obviously deliver improved transport times, better safety outcomes on a grade separated road. So, it delivers many benefits. And I particularly want to congratulate all involved for this terrific example of cooperation between the public sector and the private sector. There was a public sector review process, the Pearlman Review, which identified a preferred route for the missing link and Transurban then stepped forward with an unsolicited proposal responding to that public sector project. So, I think it's an exemplary case of public sector-private sector cooperation, public money and private money going into this. New South Wales and State Liberal—New South Wales and Federal Liberal and National Governments working together with the private sector to deliver a better outcome for citizens. And I am very pleased to be here today.
Kyle Loades: Thanks Minister. NMRA began 90 years ago as a lobby organisation fighting for better outcomes for motorists. It's undoubtedly a great outcome for NRMA's two and a half million members. Pennant Hills Road has consistently rated one of the worst roads in the state. Our members tell us they get stressed, it takes them too long to travel, it's dangerous, you're fighting with 5000 trucks a day—the list goes on. And whether you live around Pennant Hills, or you live on the Central Coast or the Hunter, every motorist will benefit. And that's why NRMA has asked for this project to be delivered and that's why we're very excited to be here today to see the commencement of the NorthConnex. So, what does it mean if you live on the Central Coast or the Hunter and you're travelling all the way to Sydney? There are now no more traffic lights. You bypass 21 sets of lights. You're not fighting with 5000 trucks a day. You're travelling 15 minutes quicker, it's safer, there's less congestion, and it's a far better motoring experience. And that's why NRMA endorsed this project and that's why we're pleased to be here today to really commend the Australian and state Governments on delivering on a winning project. We're happy to be here, it's a good outcome for New South Wales motorists. Thank you.
Matt Keane: This is a project that has been talked about for generations and finally today, after extensive community consultation, it's finally been delivered. It is an absolute game changer for my community and hundreds of thousands of commuters right across Sydney. It will improve travel times, it will fix congestion and it will make our roads safer. So, to Minister Gay and to Minister Briggs, thank you on behalf of a very grateful community.