Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack visited the region on Tuesday to check on the progress of the Testers Hollow upgrade and remind locals they're getting a "safer and more reliable Cessnock Road during flood events".
While quick to point out that the project is a joint venture between the Federal Government which has committed $15 million, and the State Government which has chipped in the $2 million, he was also happy to swing the conversation to climate policy, capitalising on major divisions within the federal Labor Party.
In a show of National Party strength, Mr McCormack was joined by NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole, Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen and NSW Senator Perin Davey on site.
"Just weeks ago, construction began to build the new two-lane road, around 900 metres in length and 1.5 metres higher than the existing road, so the Maitland area and Hunter communities will enjoy a safer and more reliable Cessnock Road during flood events," Mr McCormack said.
"The Australian Government is rolling out a record $110 billion pipeline of infrastructure projects right across the nation to get Australians to where they need to be sooner and safer while laying the economic foundations for recovery following the pandemic."
The project is expected to be completed in early 2023.
And as for the NSW Government's legislation last week to ensure the Hunter becomes a renewable energy zone, Mr McCormack preferred instead to talk up coal.
"I will let the NSW government speak for itself but I know the Nationals behind me are very much in support of the resources sector, very much in support of those resource sector jobs," he said.
"We are backing it because the coal industry provides two thirds of our energy needs for the nation, we are backing it because the coal industry provides $66 billion in exports which funds a lot of hospitals and schools in NSW and other states too.
"We are backing it because the coal industry provides jobs for 55,000 people, most of them in regional areas."
But for Federal Member for Paterson Meryl Swanson, while the construction work is welcome, she says it has taken far too long to get started.
"I first raised this as an issue when I ran in 2016. And frankly, I'm surprised Michael McCormack, and the Nationals know where Testers Hollow is.
"I was pleased to bring this project to the government's attention but am disappointed it has taken four years. This is such an essential piece of infrastructure.
"I would have welcomed the opportunity to show the deputy Prime Minister a tour of the other projects in need of attention across our region such as the M1 extension, the congestion at Heddon Greta , the Maitland Station flyover, Nelson Bay Road duplication, Thornton intersection at Raymond Terrace Road or even the Newcastle Airport Runway upgrade."
Do you know you can subscribe to get full access to all Maitland Mercury stories? Subscribing supports us in our local news coverage. To subscribe, click here.