8 August, 2017
My contribution for the debate is directed to the Minister for Roads and Road Safety. Residents in the Warrandyte electorate are raising concerns about the continuous delays with the upgrade works to the Warrandyte Bridge. The Warrandyte Bridge would be used as one of the main routes in the event of a major emergency and as an evacuation route for many residents. Those residents are now facing another bushfire season without this much-needed widening project completed.
I have raised the various planning and community consultation issues with the Minister for Roads and Road Safety on six separate occasions in this place, and they have mostly been met with a delayed response or a non-answer. Local residents have been waiting since 2014 for this project after the former coalition government promised funding to start planning for this project, only to have those funds pulled by the current government. After I spent the best part of a year raising the issue with the CEO of VicRoads, the emergency management commissioner and the minister himself, the funding was finally restored.
In November 2015 VicRoads stated that the tender for the bridge widening would be completed by the summer of 2017–18. On 1 March 2016 the minister then announced works were to commence in April 2016. Four months later, in July 2016, the VicRoads website stated that construction was to begin 'early–mid 2017' with the completion date brought forward to 'late 2017', a year later. Either way, I can assure the house that no works have even started yet. That is because the time line has altered again. The VicRoads website is now stating that construction will begin in 'late 2017', to be completed by 'mid 2018'.
This has put the minister's words at odds with VicRoads by over 12 months. I wrote to the minister on 23 June to gain clarity about the situation. To date he has failed to respond, but if his quote in the July edition of the Warrandyte Diary is anything to go by, it is going to be quite some time. In the diary the minister said the construction time line is yet to be finalised. If there is no construction time line, then why has the minister made announcements that he has one and why is VicRoads sending out community updates with construction time lines?
Residents of Warrandyte will now face another potential deadly summer without a safe evacuation route, made worse by the fact that the construction will now be seen to be carried out during the fire danger period, which will impede residents' ability to safely evacuate if needed. I ask the minister to make a statement to guarantee the safety of the residents of Warrandyte during the 2017–18 fire season and to provide an accurate time line of construction, allowing residents time to plan for the upcoming fire danger period.