The benefits to a double backflip on Fingal Bay link road pledge

Catherine Cusack MLC, right, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in Salt Ash during the state election campaign.
Catherine Cusack MLC, right, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in Salt Ash during the state election campaign.

At first glimpse, the voters of Port Stephens could be forgiven for feeling rather irritated and aggrieved at the antics of some elected representatives in the wake of the March 23 election result.

But on closer inspection the double backflip performed by the Liberals over their $188 million Fingal Bay link road pledge could be seen as beneficial to the region after Premier Gladys Berejiklian - who had made some of the announcements during her visits to the Port - reinforced her government's commitment to honouring all of its promises.

During an intensely fought campaign, both parties pledged projects valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars on the condition their government would be re-elected. 

Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer, the state election Liberal candidate for Port Stephens, Jaimie Abbott, Port Stephens duty MLC Catherine Cusack and Roads Minister Melinda Pavey in Nelson Bay on March 5 for the Fingal Bay link road announcement. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer, the state election Liberal candidate for Port Stephens, Jaimie Abbott, Port Stephens duty MLC Catherine Cusack and Roads Minister Melinda Pavey in Nelson Bay on March 5 for the Fingal Bay link road announcement. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Five days after the result the government, however, was thrown into turmoil with Liberal duty MLC Catherine Cusack - who had campaigned strongly alongside Ms Abbott - announcing that the Fingal bypass would not proceed because Ms Washington had campaigned against the project.

"The wishes of voters will be respected and the Fingal Bay link road will not go ahead," Ms Cusack told the Newcastle Herald.

The backflip drew wide criticism from voters and politicians and within 24 hours the Premier had intervened, overruling the Liberal MLC by declaring that "all of our election commitments will be honoured".

Asked for a comment on the backflip, Ms Cusack would only offer: "Kate Washington has won the election. I congratulate her for her success and I will not comment further on her campaign."

Mayor Ryan Palmer, who was at the Fingal funding announcement on March 5, said on Tuesday that common sense had prevailed and that following the Premier's announcement, the Port community could look forward to the many project commitments announced during the campaign.

"I was quite both disappointed and surprised at the backflip [by Ms Cusack] so soon after the election," he said.

Catherine Cusack.

Catherine Cusack.

"The Fingal bypass has been a hot topic for many years and I believed it would put the project to bed forever. However, the Premier's intervention means we can now look forward to having all election promises cemented in."

Ms Washington summed up the extraordinary week by saying that Ms Cusack "simply cannot be trusted here in the Hunter anymore".

Earlier, Ms Washington said that "by cancelling the road, the money should be reallocated to fund projects the people of Port Stephens voted for; Tomaree Hospital upgrade, a Medowie high school, and a 24/7 fire station in Salamander Bay".

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