$16.7 million upgrade for Hermitage Road

UPGRADES: Singleton mayor John Martin, Around Hermitage Association president Vicci Lashmore-Smith, The Nationals candidate for Cessnock Jessica Price-Purnell, The Nationals candidate for Upper Hunter Michael Johnsen, Upper Hunter MP George Souris and Singleton Council general manager Lindy Hyam.
UPGRADES: Singleton mayor John Martin, Around Hermitage Association president Vicci Lashmore-Smith, The Nationals candidate for Cessnock Jessica Price-Purnell, The Nationals candidate for Upper Hunter Michael Johnsen, Upper Hunter MP George Souris and Singleton Council general manager Lindy Hyam.

Crucial road upgrades in the heart of Cessnock’s wine country have become a reality, thanks to a $16.7 million boost from the NSW Government’s Resources for Regions program.

The Resources For Regions program is designed to fund infrastructure in mine-affected local government areas of the state.

A joint enterprise between Cessnock and Singleton councils, the project will include an upgrade of the full length of Hermitage Road and the intersection with Broke Road, on-road cycle ways, installation of tourist facilities, lighting, safety measures and more signage.

In addition to the state government funding, Cessnock Council has committed a further $300,000 and Singleton $100,000 in extra monies to the project.

With the funding now confirmed, the councils can start work on arranging for detailed design and engineering plans for eventual public comment.

“We have been hanging on the edge of our seats for this news – everything is in place and we in Cessnock are shovel-ready,” Cessnock City Council acting general manager Gareth Curtis said.

Mr. Curtis said he is pleased the NSW Government recognises how critical this infrastructure is to the region, as roads are integral in connecting local mine-industry and tourist traffic.

“Use of our road networks has substantially increased over the last 10 years and we now have the financial capacity to maintain and upgrade these roads to an acceptable and sustainable standard,” he said.

“Legacy impacts of mining have long affected our area; it’s great to know this funding will create significant economic diversity and much-needed jobs.”

Member for Cessnock, Clayton Barr congratulated Cessnock Council on receiving the funding, but said it was a long time coming.

“It makes me wonder what might have been, had Cessnock been included on the eligibility list, as a mining-affected region, three years earlier,” Mr. Barr said.

“It has taken some long, frustrating, hard work, in conjunction with Cessnock Council, to finally get our area recognised as ‘mining-affected’.”

Mr. Barr said it is also important for people to realise that this funding is not tied to mining royalties – as the name may suggest – but that it comes from the sale of publicly-owned assets.

Nationals candidate for Cessnock, Jessica Price-Purnell said the Resources for Regions funding would revitalise Broke and Hermitage roads in the heart of the Hunter Valley.

Ms. Price-Purnell said the funding was “another win for the people of the Hunter” and would bring an economic boost to both Cessnock and Singleton.

“The Hunter is a fantastic place to live and work and these improvements to our local roads is another example of the NSW Liberals and Nationals getting on with the job and delivering for this wonderful region,” she said.

The construction phase alone for this project is expected to provide an economic boost of up to $14.8 million for the Cessnock local government area.

The upgrade announcement – particularly the cycleway – was good news for tourism operators along Hermitage Road.

Hunter Valley Resort general manager Philip Hele said since the opening of the Hunter Expressway in March last year there had been a noticeable increase in tourist traffic along Hermitage Road.

“It’s the quickest and easiest route to the vineyards and this is particularly so for tourist buses which now come from Sydney to the vineyards via Hermitage Road,” he said.

A highlight of the package for many of the businesses along the road was the fact that the cycleway would be the first in the vineyard region.

“Our 40 businesses on Hermitage Road will be the first to offer bike tourism – it is a fast-growing and very popular form of tourism so the construction of the cycleway is wonderful news,” Mr. Hele said.

An estimated one per cent of the current 1.15 million visitors to the Hunter Valley Wine Country each year are cyclists, directly contributing around $5.92 million into the local economy – a figure which could more than triple with the construction of cycle ways linking key destinations.

- with The Singleton Argus

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