The NSW Government has identified how it will spend $75m on key Wakehurst Parkway upgrades.

Following an ugly spat between state and federal politicians over the withdrawal of $75m in Commonwealth Government funding, the NSW Government has doubled down on its commitment. The $75m funding promise from the NSW Government was originally made in response to a demand of co-funding for the $75m promised by the former Federal Government, which has now been withdrawn.

NSW Minister for Infrastructure, Cities and Active Transport and Member for Pittwater Rob Stokes together with NSW Minister for Metropolitan Roads Natalie Ward said the NSW Government would keep its commitment even though the Federal Government had not.

Rob Stokes

Rob Stokes

“The Albanese Government’s withdrawal of $75m in federal funding was a real kick in the guts, but we’re determined to upgrade this road for the people of the Northern Beaches.

“Sections of Wakehurst Parkway are some of the most dangerous black spots on the Northern Beaches, which is why we’re pressing ahead with our $75m funding commitment.

“These works will help reduce crashes, improve access to Northern Beaches Hospital, and save commuters time by improving the overall efficiency of the wider road network,” said Minister Stokes.

Roads Minister Natalie Ward with Infrastructure Minister Rob Stokes

The withdrawal of the Commonwealth’s $75m in the federal budget last month triggered a round of acrimony between Minister Stokes, who is standing down at the next election, and the new federal Member for Mackellar Dr Sophie Scamps. Dr Scamps blamed the NSW Government for the loss of federal funding.

Sophie Scamps

Sophie Scamps

“The $75m in funding was originally allocated on the basis that the Northern Beaches Tunnel was going ahead. However, the NSW Liberal State Government broke their promise to the people of the Northern Beaches and cancelled the project and this has directly led to the withdrawal of this funding,” said Dr Scamps at the time.

Her comments brought an angry response from Minister Stokes, who said Dr Scamps’ predecessor Jason Falinski had deftly ensured the funding was not directly tied to the tunnel project. Minister Ward labelled Dr Scamps’ statement ‘misleading’ as the tunnel project has been deferred not cancelled.

NSW Minister for Metropolitan Roads Natalie Ward

Minister Ward, who lives on the Northern Beaches and is intending to stand for Davidson when incumbent Jonathan O’Dea stands down at the next election, identified four key benefits the $75m in state funding will deliver.

Natalie Ward

Natalie Ward

“The works will improve traffic signals at the Dreadnought Road intersection, upgrade the Oxford Falls Road West intersection, improve southbound lane capacity on approach to Frenchs Forest, and improve safety at Elanora Road.

“Wakehurst Parkway is nestled within an incredible bushland setting, so these important safety improvements will be designed and delivered to minimise impacts on the local environment and community, with updates every step of the way,” said Minister Ward.

The four areas identified represent important safety upgrades to the road but leave the biggest issue unaddressed, flood proofing the road. According to Minister Stokes, that responsibility rests with Northern Beaches Council, who have already been given $18.1m specifically for that purpose.

Wakehurst Parkway flood gates locked, traffic turning around

Northern Beaches Council received a report from engineering consultants in March 2021 that gave multiple options to mitigate the flooding issues. The $18.1m in funding allowed Council to choose the ‘biggest’ option that would reduce closures to around once every two years.

Council’s community engagement report showed that roughly three quarters of the respondents wanted action on Wakehurst Parkway flooding, but one quarter were concerned about the potential environmental impact. The matter was considered and deferred once again at the March 2022 Council meeting, with ‘a further report from staff on progress within six months’. That report is yet to be presented.

Northern Beaches Councillor Rory Amon

Northern Beaches Councillor Rory Amon has called on Council to ‘get on with it’ and also called for restoration of promised federal funding.

Rory Amon

Rory Amon

“Council received funds six years ago to undertake flood mitigation works on Council controlled land surrounding the State controlled Wakehurst Parkway. Inaction has caused over half a decade of damage and delay to our community.

“In March, Councillors voted against works that would have reduced flood events on a problematic section of the Parkway, from multiple times a year to once or so every two years. I applaud the State Government’s commitment to the Parkway and keeping our residents safe. It’s now time for Council to get on with it.

“It’s time for the Federal Labor Government to honour the legislated $75m commitment to the Parkway. Federal Government generates significant tax from our residents. We deserve our fair share,” said Cr Amon.

NSW Health Minister and Member for Wakehurst Brad Hazzard, who is also standing down at the next election, said community consultation on the Wakehurst Parkway projects would occur in 2023 but essential resurfacing work between Judith Street and Aquatic Drive will be carried out from 23 November 2022.

“This is a key corridor for the Northern Beaches and these works will make the Wakehurst Parkway a safer and more reliable road,” said Minister Hazzard.

The Wakehurst Parkway Flood Improvement program website offers additional details of the actions taken by Northern Beaches Council over the last several years assessing the issue of flood mitigation.

Images: Rob Stokes MP, Northern Beaches Advocate

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