HANSARD- HILLSBOROUGH ROAD SAFETY

Ms JODIE HARRISON ( Charlestown ) ( 16:31 :00 ): I speak on the petition relating to the Macquarie Road, Hillsborough Road and Medcalf Street intersection at Warners Bay. On 28 April residents from Lake Macquarie, Newcastle, my electorate of Charlestown and the wider community mourned the tragic loss of young Jade Frith. Jade passed away due to injuries sustained from being hit by a car on Hillsborough Road two days earlier. I was lucky enough to have met Jade. I know that, at only 15 years of age and with a growing reputation as a competitive swimmer, she had a bright future ahead. Such a needless loss of young life resulted in a heartfelt outpouring of grief. There is nothing more devastating than having to say goodbye to a child. I cannot imagine what Jade's family and friends are enduring, and my thoughts remain with them at this very sad time.

Hillsborough Road, one of the Hunter's busiest roads, is a choke point for traffic and offers little access to safe pedestrian crossings. This particular section of Hillsborough Road has always been an accident waiting to happen. This notorious stretch of road needs to be fixed before tragedy strikes again. In the past two decades, this long road joining Charlestown with Warners Bay has become an increasingly busy thoroughfare. There are major shopping and entertainment destinations on both sides of a road that empties into the equally busy King Street and Macquarie Road, through an often-congested roundabout. It is a stretch of suburban road that has struggled to keep pace with the area's growth, development and expansion. On one side of the roundabout is Warners Bay High School and on the other a McDonald's restaurant. Despite all the pedestrians and traffic, the only safe place to cross from one side of the road to the other is a set of pedestrian lights 400 metres back up the hill.

The petition before us reflects the community's frustration at the lack of action taken in recent years. Community concerns have been ignored for too long. Something has to be done. The thousands of signatories on this petition are calling on the Legislative Assembly to take immediate action to improve the dangerous conditions at the King Street, Macquarie Road, Hillsborough Road and Medcalf Street intersection. They are calling for the roundabout to be removed and for traffic lights, with a four-way crossing, to be installed. This will enable students of Warners Bay High School as well as the general public to cross the road safely.

Collecting signatures is not easy; it is hard work. Many people worked tirelessly collecting signatures at night after they finished work and school, and in their valuable time on already busy weekends. In particular I have to thank and commend Nicole, the organiser of this petition, and the many other volunteers for their dedication in collecting signatures over the last month. They exceeded the target of 10,000 signatures, with over 15,000 signatures tabled and with hundreds more still coming into my office. I have some more to table today. It is a true reflection of the strength of our community and the importance of the matter before us. I acknowledge that Roads and Maritime Services is in the process of conducting a $4 million traffic study. The results of this study were meant to be released in the second half of 2015. I understand that the study has been extended to include all State roads between Warners Bay and Charlestown. It is now scheduled to be finished this year. However, the Government, especially in light of the recent tragedy, needs to do more.

I was deeply disappointed that this Liberal Baird Government refused my request to release information on the studies into fixing the road. I requested the information under the Government Information (Public Access) Act [GIPA]. The public has a right to know what is being investigated and studied, and they want a solution found before another life is taken. Denying the public access to information on how the Government plans to fix the Hillsborough Road problem shows again a lack of transparency by this Government. It is just another example of the arrogance of the Baird Government towards the people of the Hunter.

Students from Warners Bay High School are risking their lives every day by darting across the road. A short-term solution is also needed. So I wrote to the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight requesting a barrier be installed on the median strip to prevent pedestrians crossing where it is clearly not safe to do so. I was pleased to find in Tuesday's State budget that $350,000 has been allocated to the installation of median safety barriers and pedestrian fencing on King Street, from Walker Street to Myles Street, Warners Bay.

But no further commitments were made to funding the Hillsborough Road upgrade and the findings of the $4 million traffic study. I understand an upgrade will be expensive. But a Government's primary responsibility needs to be to ensure the safety of the people it represents. The message to the Minister and the Government today from the thousands of signatories could not be clearer—commit to funding the Hillsborough Road upgrades to improve safety and to prevent the loss of another precious life.