Gloucester community wants answers about the State election roads transfer promise pre by-election

Gloucester region residents Rod Williams, James Hooke and Katheryn Smith meet with Mick Veitch at the Mograni Lookout off the Bucketts Way. Photo Anne Keen
Gloucester region residents Rod Williams, James Hooke and Katheryn Smith meet with Mick Veitch at the Mograni Lookout off the Bucketts Way. Photo Anne Keen

The pending Upper Hunter by-election has drawn the spotlight back to the Coalition's 2019 State election promise of transferring The Bucketts Way and Thunderbolts Way back to the State Government.

Members of the Gloucester community are wanting answers about the roads promise before the election date on Saturday, May 22. The Nationals have indicated the final report on the roads transfer and reclassification commissioned in November 2020 won't be released until July 2021. However, it's been reported that the Minister for Transport, Paul Toole has been in possession of an interim report for the past five months.

Shadow Minister for Rural Roads, Mick Veitch attempted to move a motion in parliament forcing the report's release by Friday May 14, but he was meet with objection by the State Government. So, he made a trip to Gloucester last Friday to speak with residents about the situation. He believes the community has the right to know the contents of the report before the by-election.

"The minister should advise if these roads are part of the report," Mick said. "It's been two years. It was a promise. It needs to be done."

For residents like James Hooke, who also is the president of the Gloucester Business Chamber, it's all about holding the politicians to account for their election promises.

"It was an election promise. That's how people vote. Regardless of the report, it should be done," James said.

Gloucester resident and MidCoast councillor, Katheryn Smith knows council haas already completed the require applications for the roads' transfer and reclassification.

"They made too many promises," Katheryn said.

But for James, the amount of promises politicians make during an election is their problem. They shouldn't make them if they can't follow through with them.

Funding promises for road upgrades in the region have come and gone, with some not getting traction due to lack of full funding being obtained. The battle to return major transport roads, like Bucketts Way and Thunderbolts Way, back to State has been fought for many years.

So when the Coalition campaigned that promise in 2019, it was a a big ticket item. Former Member for Upper Hunter, Michael Johnsen was clear with the community both during and after the election that these two roads would be on the list but reiterated a July 2021 report release date.

Stroud Road resident and deputy chair of Advance Gloucester, Rod Williams has been involved in the fight for transport improvements in the region for decades. He's not so worried about the promise being fulfilled and believes it's just how the process works.

He's sentiment is echoed in the Nationals' response to questions about the roads transfer.

Acting Member for Upper Hunter (pending the election outcome), Sam Farraway said the Nationals have been upfront about the complexity of the process.

"This is a big reform and we're taking the time to get it right. The independent panel has submitted its interim report with priority recommendations to the minister and the main round of submissions is due to open later this year."

Paul Toole's office was asked the same questions about release of the report prior to the by-election and if the Bucketts Way and the Thunderbolts Way are earmarked to be transferred back to State but there had been no response as of the time of publication.