Muswellbrook doorstop interview

MEMBER FOR HUNTER, DAN REPACHOLI: Hi all. Just here today with Catherine King, the Minister for Infrastructure, and also Mayor Steve Reynolds from Muswellbrook Shire with a great [inaudible].

MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, CATHERINE KING: Thanks very much Dan and Steve for having us here today. This is an absolutely perfect example of what the Albanese Labor Government wants to do with its Regional Precincts Program. We've invested money in the October Budget, $10.5 million for this precinct here, to really help bring it together. The [inaudible] really tie in all of the elements of it together, that you can see just nearly finished here. But really what the Precincts Program is about is revitalising the way in which people live in their cities, whether they’re towns, or right the way through to the largest regional centres. So, this project here - $10.5 million in the October Budget locked in - really will deliver for this community.

It's a huge investment we're making across the Hunter. As a Government, we see the incredible potential that this region has to drive economic growth for the whole of the country into the future. And I know that this project will be something that you'll be very proud of.

REPACHOLI: Most certainly, I’m looking forward to seeing this project when it's finished. I can't wait to bring my daughters here. Once again, this is a Labor government that delivers for the regions and delivering to areas like Muswellbrook, would you like to say a few words, Steve?

MUSWELLBROOK SHIRE COUNCIL MAYOR, STEVE REYNOLDS: Yes, I would just like to thank Minister King for making the trip up here today to see our beautiful precinct - that will be - after this announcement. Funding like this, and Dan going into the bat for us during the campaign, it is fantastic and it will see this project actually delivered. We'll see it being a really liveable, rejuvenated town centre, and the ability – and I've just taken the Minister and our Member through our new facilities here - that will build on that for our township and it's all about providing that opportunity for our kids and for tourists to come through our area. So, thank you both. Hope to see you here more often.

JOURNALIST: One question, is there any funding on the way to fix roads in the Hunter impacted by recent flooding? And how can communities better be better supported in terms of road and infrastructure upgrades?

KING: Yes, absolutely. In the October Budget, we locked in an additional $250 million - that's specifically for regional and rural and peri-urban local governments - to the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Fund, bringing it to a total in this round of $750 million. As Infrastructure Minister, I recognise that roads haven't just come into disrepair in the last five months, there's been significant pressure on local government, the weather events have obviously contributed substantially to that. There also will be as you know, the usual disaster recovery arrangements that are in place for flood affected communities. We're obviously still seeing a lot of those events going through Parkes and Forbes at the moment, but certainly in terms of those disaster arrangements, there are arrangements between the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth in relation to that. But, that initial top up to the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Fund will see more money come to Muswellbrook Council and every council across the community to actually help with those roads issues.

JOURNALIST: Minister we have the major highway in the New England. We can see and hear a lot of traffic. The Bypass is on the way, so we keep hearing, which will be a good thing. But when are we going to see major upgrades to the rest of the highway because it's a goat track at best?

KING: Certainly, in terms of the bypass, there is money locked into the October Budget for that project. We're waiting for the final business case from the New South Wales Government and then there'll be the detailed project proposal. So that's scheduled at this stage to start in 2024, to be finished in 2028. If we can bring that forward, we will work with the New South Wales government to do that. In terms of other road improvements, again, we'll work with the New South Wales Government to see what improvements we can make. We know, certainly in terms of regional and rural roads at the moment, that the weather events have created substantial pressure. But as I say, the roads haven't deteriorated in the last five months, this is decades of neglect, frankly, from the previous government, from not investing in our regional roads properly, and we're certainly interested to talk to the New South Wales Government about what improvements need to be made going forward.

JOURNALIST: So, an ironclad guarantee that the Federal Government will tip in and help to upgrade New England highway?

KING: Certainly, we've got the bypass coming, we've obviously got the Singleton Bypass as well on the books, so we will continue to work with the New South Wales Government to improve roads right the way across the country and Muswellbrook will be no different to that.

REYNOLDS: It's also about getting the ideal weather opportunities to do the repairs. A lot of people have come out with their $5 spectator fee and have had a say in what actually does need to be done. But we need the optimal weather and we haven't had it to be able to deliver in our Shire. Actual repairs that needed to be done. And with the Government funding and working with State Government we will get there, but there just needs to be a little bit of patience. So, we’re focusing on safety critical risk areas. But, everything will get repaired in due course. We haven't seen a weather event like this after a drought for a long time and it's been a lot of financial strain on us as well. So, we're grateful for the assistance from the State Government and the Federal Government.