With pre-polling starting tomorrow and just over a week to go until the NSW election, the race is on for Upper Hunter candidates to win over their communities with their commitments for the future.
The Nationals hold the seat on a tiny 0.5-point margin, making it the third-tightest contest in the state before the March 25 vote.
No doubt eager to hold his tightly-contested seat, member for Upper Hunter Dave Layzell made two significant announcements for the Muswellbrook Shire this week.
He declared if re-elected, the NSW Liberals and Nationals Government would fund the $9 million shortfall to complete the Denman to Sandy Hollow water pipeline; and commit to the $9.5 million required for the Coal Road link road from the Muswellbrook bypass to its CBD.
These major projects were the top two priorities for Muswellbrook Shire Council in their advocacy agenda ahead of the state election.
If the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government was re-elected, Dave Layzell said they would provide additional funding for the Denman to Sandy Hollow water pipeline.
In recent weeks, residents from the area joined council to rally for the additional funding leading up to the March 25 election.
The project had already been backed by the government, Mr Layzell said, and they're prepared to see it through following the announcement on Wednesday (15th).
The NSW Government gave the pipeline a kickstart in 2020 when almost $19 million was awarded to Muswellbrook Shire Council from the Growing Local Economies Fund. The additional $9 million will ensure the project sees completion.
Muswellbrook Mayor Steve Reynolds said completion of the pipeline would allow local businesses to expand their operations, open the door to new agribusiness opportunities and create hundreds of local jobs as well as deliver water security to residents and, for prospective investors, provide more opportunities to invest in the Shire.
"Council has worked diligently to fulfil the challenging conditions attached to the original Growing Local Economies funding and is pleased that, with this announcement, the $9 million shortfall would be funded, allowing us to complete the project as soon as possible," Cr Reynolds said.
As this is an "if elected" announcement, progress on the project is dependent on the outcome of the 25 March election.
The NSW Nationals backed the construction and delivery of the Scone to Murrurundi water pipeline, which started pumping water in May 2020 to provide water security for communities along its path.
In Murrurundi's case, it removed the threat of the town running out of water during future droughts, which it faced in recent years, Mr Layzell said.
The second announcement from the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government for Muswellbrook this week, was for an additional $9.5 million to build the Coal Road Connection.
Mr Layzell said, while early works on the Muswellbrook Bypass were underway, the $9.5 million announcement to build the link road would "significantly improve" access between the bypass and the town's CBD.
"It was the NSW Nationals that requested Transport for NSW go back to the drawing board when designing the Muswellbrook Bypass to allow for a future connection at Coal Road," Mr Layzell said.
"Today (March 17) I'm announcing that if re-elected, we will invest an additional $9.5 million to build the Coal Road Connection.
"This project will keep the Hunter moving forward by cutting congestion and improving safety for the 10,000 motorists, including our truckies, who use this route each day.
"Another advantage of the connection will be improved access for emergency services including NSW Fire and Rescue, NSW Ambulance and NSW Police.
"The message from the Muswellbrook community is clear that they want the Coal Road Connection for easier access between the Bypass and the CBD and that's what we will deliver."
Mr Layzell said the NSW Nationals backed the Coal Road component being included in the concept design phase of planning for the Muswellbrook Bypass in April 2021 and to co-fund local road upgrades with Muswellbrook Shire Council to support the connection.
Transport for NSW updated the design to include a future full connection at Coal Road that will allow for all traffic movements between Muswellbrook township and the bypass.
"The $9.5 million the NSW Nationals are committing to the bypass is all about future proofing the Coal Road Connection to enable the best link with the Muswellbrook CBD and also allow the potential development of industrial land close to the New England Highway," Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Sam Farraway said.
"I have been in discussions with Dave Layzell and Muswellbrook Shire Council for a number of months to finetune this enhancement to the project."
The $340 million Muswellbrook Bypass is jointly funded by the Australian and NSW Governments.
Construction of the New England Highway bypasses of Muswellbrook and Singleton are expected to create more than 2000 jobs.
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