Sexton Hill funding slashed in brutal budget

THE blood had barely dried on the New South Wales Government's brutal mini-budget before word reached the Tweed that the Sexton Hill upgrade had been axed.

Funding for the $250 million upgrade of the notorious blackspot has been ripped away by the Government as part of its agressive budget cuts announced yesterday.

Combined with axing of the northern NSW fuel subsidy from July 1 next year by Premier Nathan Rees, pictured, the loss of the Sexton Hill upgrade was a major blow for the Tweed.

Opposition MP Geoff Provest said he was stunned by the decision to cut the Sexton Hill upgrade, despite fearing the worst from yesterday's horror mini-budget.

"I'm still a bit shell-shocked," said Mr Provest as he gathered his thoughts about 30 minutes after NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendaal announced deep budget cuts in parliament at midday.

He said cancelling promised spending on Sexton Hill, which was due to start next financial year with the new road completed in 2012, would cost lives.

NRMA statistics between 2003 and 2006 show there were 127 crashes at Sexton Hill, including two fatalities and 61 injuries.

"I'm absolutely devastated. People are losing their lives. It's nearly criminal," Mr Provest said.

"We have increasing traffic flows since the opening of the Tugun bypass. "Labor has given up on the Pacific Highway's worst blackspot -- there will be no upgrade until we get a change of government in 2011.

"This was one of the biggest cuts in this awful mini-budget, but the treasurer didn't even bother to mention it in his speech.

"Tweed motorists are also going to be slugged an extra eight cents a litre for petrol for the privilege of driving on unsafe roads."

The loss of the fuel subsidy scheme had been predicted in the lead-up to the mini-budget yesterday.

From July next year fuel prices on the New South Wales side of the border are likely to be eight to nine cents a litre higher than Queensland prices once the subsidy goes.

Banora Point-based Highway Action Group spokesman Rod Bates agreed the deferral was disappointing but said it would give residents a chance to push for a better solution such as a tunnel.

"It might be an opportunity to get a true western bypass of the Tweed. A little breathing space might be a good thing," he said.

Other cuts to hit Tweed hard include funding for sewering the village of Mooball and preventing pollution of local creeks; forcing parents to pay for the current free school bus serves; accelerating the controversial sale of crown land reserves and ending the subsidisation of blood products to private hospitals.



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