NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had a ‘’great cup of coffee’’ in Wollongong on Saturday morning before heading to Berry to deliver good news about the town’s $580 million bypass project.
But Ms Berejiklian has no immediate plans of returning to Wollongong in an official capacity any time soon.
She was also non-committal on a start date for the Albion Park Rail bypass, despite announcing that the Berry bypass would be completed before Christmas, six months ahead of schedule.
‘’Obviously I’m not going to commit to anything new [Albion Park Rail bypass] today but what I will say is we are a government that makes sure we’ve got an eye on the future,’’ Ms Berejiklian said.
‘’We are so pleased we are making progress with this and other projects but we do know the community expect us to do more and we will. And in due course we will make further announcements.’’
Ms Berejiklian did however indicate an announcement would be made soon on the controversial forced council merger policy, introduced by her predecessor Mike Baird.
‘’We appreciate that in many communities the policy has been very successful. In other communities it has caused angst. We are in discussions on this issue and I will have something further to say in the not too distant future,’’ she said.
The Premier was more forthcoming in talking up the Berry bypass, alongside Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra, Kiama MP Gareth Ward.
‘’He [Mr Ward] appreciates as do I how important and significant this piece of infrastructure is to the community,’’ Ms Berejiklian said.
‘’What gave me such a thrill today was as I came down the highway and saw the sign saying mid-2018 completion – that is now wrong because this project is running ahead of schedule and we hope to have people driving on this exact piece of infrastructure by the end of the year.’’
The infrastructure in question is a 610 metre bridge, which when complete will allow highway motorists to bypass the Berry township completely.
‘’This upgrade gives the people of Berry back their town and will also be a huge boost to improving road safety and travel times for motorists,’’ the Premier said.
‘’It is such a thrilling day to be able to say to the local community who needs this piece of infrastructure desperately that it will be delivered to you ahead of schedule. It means you will have a safer road and it also means that towns like Berry will have their community life reinvigorated.’’
Mr Ward said he was ‘’so pleased’’ the Foxground section of the project, ‘’where we’ve seen lives lost in the past’’ will be open by Easter this year.