It looks like no matter who takes office after Saturday’s federal election, the people who use Cessnock Road at Testers Hollow will be the real winners.
The Liberal Party has one-upped Labor by pledging $15 million to improve the road that was cut by floodwater for about a week during the 2015 April super storm, and again in January.
Liberal candidate for Paterson Karen Howard and Minister for Major Projects Paul Fletcher announced the funding, which would exceed Labor’s pledge by $5 million dollars, on Tuesday.
“This is not just for communities that were landlocked [during the April 2015 super storm] but for people taking that road in and out of Maitland who were inconvenienced by the flood,” Ms Howard said.
“The strongest message this sends is the value of having a representative who can knock on the right doors within government and deliver in the community.”
The announcement comes just over a week after Labor candidate for Paterson Meryl Swanson and Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon pledged $10 million for the road.
State Labor Member for Maitland Jenny Aitchison, who has long been vocal about the need to fix the road at Testers Hollow, accused Ms Howard of a last-minute about-face after the Liberal candidate described Labor’s federal funding commitment as “irresponsible”.
“Last week spending $10 million was irresponsible. This week [she’s offering] $15 million. What is she doing?” Ms Aitchison said.
Ms Swanson denounced the Liberal plan as political opportunism, describing it as “a classic case of me-too-ism”.
“This is a case of the government panicking and almost blackmailing the people of Paterson,” she said. “She’s on film calling [our funding] irresponsible and she’s backflipped.”
Mr Fletcher criitcised Labor’s commitment for being both too low and unfunded. He said the Liberal federal funding would pay about 80 per cent of the total bill and would incentivise state and local governments to fund the remainder. Ms Aitchison and Ms Swanson refuted his claims, citing the project’s omission from the state government budget as proof the Liberal Party was disingenuous about the issue.