Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines has criticised the Government’s decision to axe funding for the overpass at the notorious McKoy Street intersection.
On Thursday, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King released the recommendations of the 90-day independent review of the Infrastructure Investment Program that was announced on May 9.
Eighty-two projects have been cancelled, with their share of the $120 billion program redirected intoother road, rail and bridge projects. One of the cancelled projects was the long anticipated McKoy Street Hume Freeway intersection upgrade.
“It is deeply disappointing that the McKoy Street overpass has been dumped by the Government,” Dr Haines said.
“This is a failure of the former Morrison Government, the Victorian Labor Government and now of the Federal Labor Government. Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison made this promise in a fly-in, fly-out campaign stop in 2019, but there was no follow through in the three years of his Government.
“In that time, we have since learnt the costs blew out from the initial $64 million election promise to more than $300 million to complete it. The former government and the Victorian Government dragged their feet on McKoy Street, leaving it vulnerable to ending up on the chopping block.”
On 7 May 2019 during the federal election campaign, former prime minister Scott Morrison flew into Wodonga to announce a $64 million election promise on behalf of the Coalition to build the overpass. This was more than doubled to a $168 million commitment from the Coalition in the 2020 federal budget. In May this year it was revealed an extra $190 million would be needed to completethe overpass, funds the Victorian Government would not provide.
“It is a disgrace that we have been left in this position. Unless the Victorian Government makes this a priority, I can’t see how this overpass will be built,” Dr Haines said.
“Wodonga residents, commuters, local businesses and freight companies navigate this dangerous intersection every day.
“The lack of progress on this development in the four and half years since it was promised, demonstrates that governments at both federal and state level are not committed to the infrastructure needs of our border communities.
“It is local people who miss out when leaders of the major parties fly in during elections and talk bigto win votes. Big promises and big dollars, with little evidence of good planning and littletransparency.
“This goes to the heart of integrity of funding decisions. When communities are pork barrelled by the major parties, everyone loses because the funding promised isn’t well-considered and doesn’t cover the true cost of the project.
“Public trust in government processes is undermined when commitments are simply walked awayfrom. Taxpayer money must be spent with transparency and decisions must have full parliamentary scrutiny.”
Reviewers recommended projects be cancelled because they lacked merit, were at high risk of cost pressures or delays, lacked national strategic rationale and did not meet the Government’s national investment priorities.
Additional funding for the Roads to Recovery and Black Spot Program was recommended in the report.
“I will keep fighting for roads funding for Indi,” Dr Haines said.
“Everyone deserves to feel safe driving on our local roads and highways. Yet right across my regional electorate people are travelling on dangerous roads every day.
“I welcome additional government funding that delivers safer, better roads in regional, rural and remote areas.”