Money, promises flowing in Port Stephens as parties prepare for State election

Premier Gladys Berejiklian in Salt Ash on Tuesday with Liberal candidate Jaimie Abbott. The Premier announced another $205 million towards upgrading Nelson Bay Road. Picture: Simone De Peak
Premier Gladys Berejiklian in Salt Ash on Tuesday with Liberal candidate Jaimie Abbott. The Premier announced another $205 million towards upgrading Nelson Bay Road. Picture: Simone De Peak

Residents of the Port Stephens electorate must be thinking all their Christmases will continue for another two months as the political heavyweights roll into town bearing gifts, and promises, in the lead-up to the March 23 state election.

For the past six months both major parties have zoned in on the Port Stephens seat, currently held by Labor’s Kate Washington who is being challenged by Liberal’s Jaimie Abbott, with regular visits and funding announcements.

Needing a 4.8 per cent swing, the Liberals are desperate to win back voters the party lost to the ALP at the 2015 polls, ensuring Port Stephens becomes an election battleground and a hotspot for party figureheads to visit.

Just in the past week both leaders – Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Opposition leader Michael Daley – have traversed the M1 to gift the people of Port Stephens free public transport for children (Labor), a new police station and a quarter of a billion dollar commitment to duplicate Nelson Bay Road (Liberal).

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian with Liberal candidate for the State seat of Port Stephens, Jaimie Abbott, at Tuesday's Nelson Bay Road duplication announcement.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian with Liberal candidate for the State seat of Port Stephens, Jaimie Abbott, at Tuesday's Nelson Bay Road duplication announcement.

In fact, Tuesday’s visit by the Premier was Ms Berejiklian’s third to the electorate in six months, and while last Thursday was Mr Daley’s first stopover since taking over the reins, he did promise that “this won’t be, by any means, the last time you’ll see me here between now and the election”.

The duplication of Nelson Bay Road issue has been littered with controversy and broken promises long before Tuesday’s announcement from Ms Berejiklian that her government would commit a further $205 million to the $70 million already budgeted, to upgrade 18km of roadway from Williamtown to Bobs Farm.

She promised a re-elected Liberal government would commence work on the duplication this year with an expectation it would be completed in two years.

“Nelson Bay Road is a crucial connection for residents, used by more than 25,000 motorists a day, and we are planning these improvements to support tourism.”

Ms Washington immediately hit back, labelling the announcement as a “desperate” measure with “the Premier left to reheat and serve up the Liberal’s biggest broken promise from the 2015 election”.

“While former Liberal Premier Mike Baird in 2015 promised a ‘full duplication’, today’s announcement has effectively scaled back the government’s commitment, with only 18 kms of road now slated to be duplicated. We haven’t even got the single roundabout upgrade touted in the last budget,” Ms Washington said.

Both political parties made pre-election promises in 2015 to duplicate Nelson Bay Road if they won government – the Liberal’s committing $70 million and Labor $65 million.

“When it comes to Nelson Bay Road, the Berejiklian Government has shown without a doubt they can’t be trusted. The Premier can’t seriously think that anyone will believe they will keep this promise.”

Ms Abbott, a regular commuter between the Bay and Williamtown, said the duplication would improve safety for road users.

“The duplication by the Liberals from Bobs Farm to Anna Bay has been fantastic and I’m thrilled that the Liberals will extend it from Bobs Farm to Williamtown,” she said.

Asked for an update on the Mambo wetlands buyback, Ms Abbott said that while it had been a complicated issue, she was pleased that the government was pursuing the compulsory acquisition option.

With much attention on the seat, the campaigning from both sides has been vigorous, as is expected from  the two well-credentialed, highly polished and ambitious political candidates.

However, there is an expectation that the parties will continue to up the ante right up to polling day on March 23. 

Read more on the Nelson Bay Road duplication issue:

Comments