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Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

Member for New England Barnaby Joyce and Liverpool Plains Shire Council are supporting the Upper Hunter Shire Council’s urgent plea to the Federal Government to deliver on the promised funds for the MR358 Merriwa to Willow Tree Road project.

The MR358 Project involves works initially done in 2019 on the Merriwa to Willow Tree road, also known as Coulson’s Creek Road, that cracked and fell away, resulting in the road being completely closed in January 2021. Locals have been travelling an extra 30 to 90 minutes as a result of the road closure for over two years. The project, valued close to $50 million, was promised funding by the previous Coalition Federal Government and NSW State Government. Last year, Member for Hunter, Dan Repacholi, announced funding for the MR358 project from the Albanese Labor Government.

A 90-day infrastructure pipeline review, led by Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King, was initiated to ensure the government’s $120 billion, 10-year infrastructure investment is allocated to projects that enhance long-term productivity, economic growth, and regional development. Joyce says it is imperative that the MR358 project is identified as a top priority as that review nears the end.

“The reality is that the people of Merriwa and Willow Tree are still waiting,” Mr Joyce said.

“Talk is cheap, and photo opportunities don’t build roads.”

“It’s time for the Federal Government to follow through on their commitment and actually deliver for regional Australia.”

“This important transport link connects the New England Highway to the Golden Highway. Rebuilding this road will better connect our communities, boost local economies and enhance supply chain movement and productivity,” he said.

Liverpool Plains Shire Council Mayor Doug Hawkins says the promised road funding is long overdue.

“The MR358 Merriwa to Willow Tree Road is an important freight link for not just the Upper Hunter but the Liverpool Plains as well.”

“Our Council has done our bit by completing our section of this project and we support our good friends in the Upper Hunter Shire by calling upon the Federal Government to release the necessary funding so that this project can be completed.”

Upper Hunter Shire Council Mayor Maurice Collison says our community deserves better.

 “We made a commitment to our community to deliver this project, and we urge the Federal Government to honour their commitment to fund it.”

“Council has completed its due diligence and is prepared for construction, the funds committed by the Federal and State Governments have yet to materialise.”

Both Councils and Mr Joyce firmly believe that the MR358 project fulfils all the criteria for funding under the infrastructure pipeline, including enhancing long-term productivity, supply chains, and economic growth. All say the State and Federal Governments must deliver on their commitments and release the funds for this crucial infrastructure project.

Top image: the damage on the Merriwa to Willow Tree Road that caused the closure in 2021 (Dave Lyzell)

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