Ballina MP and Shadow Minister for North Coast Don Page has welcomed the announcement today of planning approval and construction funding for the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale upgrade of the Pacific Highway.

He especially welcomed the announcement of construction money at the same time as planning approval was given, as quite often this is not the case.

“Usually planning approval is given and it can be years before construction money becomes available,” Mr Page said.

These delays occurred for both the Ballina bypass and Alstonville bypass projects.

“When the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale upgrade is completed in 2014, it will mean that from Ballina to Brisbane will all be dual carriageway,” he said.

“This upgrade will improve safety, reduce travel time, save fuel and reduce green house gas emissions.

“It will also open up more tourism opportunities for places like Ballina in particular.”

Mr Page said that the announcement of $780 million (jointly funded by the State and Federal governments) combined with the $640 million currently being spent on the Ballina bypass will be a huge injection of money into the local economy, providing an additional 400 jobs for the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale section.

He said that some landholders would be adversely affected by the upgrade and that planning approval meant that the provisions of the Just Terms (Land Acquisition) Act can be activated to ensure compensation is paid at market price where land acquisition is required.

“Unfortunately, over 400 people have been killed on the Pacific Highway over the last 15 years, with thousands more injured. The upgrade of the full length of the Pacific Highway to dual carriageway needs to be expedited to ensure the remaining 402km of the highway is a safer road,” Mr Page said.

The section of the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale upgrade is 17km of road and involves a tunnel, which will be constructed under St Helena.

The Ballina bypass is due for completion in 2012.