After the State Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced road funding for the MidCoast Council during a recent visit to the region, residents are wondering what’s happened with the past funding announcements promised for the Bucketts Way.
When travelling from Purfleet in Taree through Gloucester to the Pacific Highway there are many areas of the road lacking line markings and/or shoulders. Some edges of the bitumen are so deteriorated that transport trucks which frequently use the route are required to drive toward the middle of the road to avoid hitting the broken edges.
Night visibility becomes a major issue as narrow sections of the road have no outside line to assist drivers to navigate their way when faced with oncoming headlights.
Billy Hughes, who grew up in Gloucester and now lives in Tuncurry, travels the Bucketts Way regularly, like many others, and has taken to Facebook recently, calling out to the politicians about the state of the Bucketts Way.
He posted a poem on June 9 hoping someone who can make a difference to the road will hear his plea.
“Just widen the roads and remove some trees,” he writes. “Come on it won’t hurt the birds and the bees.”
“Look, I know some of us sometimes go too fast, but just another metre each side could mean we might last.”
“Man I’m not doing this for likes on my feed, I just want somebody freaking important to read.”
Billy was motivated to write the poem as he just wants his loved ones to be able to travel safely to see him. He just wants the someone to fix it.
When a politician makes a funding announcement it can sometimes be difficult for the community to understand what the announcement means, whether the road will be fixed or if the funding requires another government body to match the payment.
In 2015, Federal member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie announced funding for areas between Purfleet and Craven, south of Gloucester (within the former Lyne electorate boundary), indicating on his website the completion date would be that same year.
“In my first term as the Federal Member for Lyne, I secured an additional $16 million in federal funding to assist council with the upgrade of the Bucketts Way and unfortunately this contribution was not matched by the State Government.”
MidCoast Council's manager, transport assets, Scott Nicholson said the funding wasn’t reliant on a State contribution and was to be completed by May 2016.
“As part of the funding agreement with the Federal Government, a range of milestones were set for the completion of works, based on resources and funding allocations. All sections of the road were completed in line with the agreed funding milestones.”
The recent road funding announcement will see $50 million funded by the State government to be matched by MidCoast Council to make a $100 million road package, $6 million of which council has indicated will go toward fixing up parts of the Bucketts between Purfleet and Gloucester, with priority works in the vicinity of Tinonee.
Just over a year ago, in May 2017, Minister for Roads, Melinda Pavey and Member for Upper Hunter, Michael Johnsen announced $8.3 million in funding to help MidCoast Council and Port Stephens Council to fix the Bucketts Way, south of Gloucester.
This funding announcement had an expected completion date of 2019, however it’s reliant on council and federal funding.
Mr Nicholson said council funding has been secured but it cannot proceed until $8.396 million of federal funding is secured.
“A number of applications (for funding) have been made to the Federal Government, however at this point in time, none have been successful in attracting the required funds,” Mr Nicholson said.
Council has two active Federal Government applications current under the Building Better Regions Fund and the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program.
"We're eagerly waiting to hear if either of these applications are successful so we can commence delivering the route strategy. The top three priority projects in the route access strategy have been fully designed which will allow construction works to commence immediately after federal funding has been announced,” Mr Nicholson said.
Dr Gillespie said funding for both rounds have closed and are under consideration by the department with an announcement expected in the first quarter of the 2018/19 financial year.
“The Bucketts Way is obviously the responsibility of local and State governments.
“In the various federal programs the Coalition has created, I have continued to support local applications I have been briefed on,” Dr Gillespie said.
“The latest Roads of Strategic Importance program established in this year’s budget is probably a better fit to assist with further upgrades to the Bucketts Way and I would encourage MidCoast Council to apply for funding under that program,” he said.
Mr Nicholson said MidCoast Council continues to look into all funding options.
But the question still remains, when will the work get started and when will the rest of the road get attended too.
In December 2017, Ms Pavey launched a State-wide road safety media campaign which was done in partnership with the NSW Department of Transport and Fairfax Media NSW, called Survive the Drive.
The campaign was designed to target drivers on country roads in an effort to reduce the road toll.
On Friday June 15, Ms Pavey made an announcement with Deputy Premier John Barilaro that all of NSW’s major highways are to be completely sealed and weather proof by 2023.
“This government is committed to making sure that regional NSW is a safe and secure place to work, live and raise a family and improving our road network is essential to that,” Mr Barilaro said.
But the Bucketts Way isn’t part of this budget allocation for sealing country roads.
The Gloucester Advocate has contacted Micheal Johnsen and Melinda Pavey’s offices for comment, neither have responded at the time of publication.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.