THE Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Tamworth candidate has tabled a 500-signature petition about Werris Creek Road, which will force an official response from NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey.
Jeff Bacon has made the “deplorable state” of the road an election issue, and while Nationals Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson has also promised to get the road fixed, Mr Bacon said he’s “fighting against lip service”.
“We’ve got to keep it relevant, or otherwise it will just be forgotten about,” Mr Bacon said.
“It’s the second-busiest road in the electorate, second only to the New England Highway, but it’s a council road, so it doesn’t attract the usual state funding.
“I’m hoping the minister acknowledges the community of Werris Creek and their concerns about the road, and offers a solution to get it funded and fixed.”
Although he tabled only the required 500 signatures, the petition has received 1500.
Mr Bacon went door-to-door to collect the first 500, while petition sheets at businesses in Quirindi, Werris Creek and Currabubula added a further 1000.
“The biggest reaction has been surprise that someone actually gives a stuff about it,” he said.
“I almost had a pretty bad accident on the road, which really alerted me to the situation. Once I had a look into it and got the stats on it, I realised someone had to stand up and fight for it.”
Mr Bacon said he’d heard “countless stories” of near-misses and accidents.
“There are people in Werris Creek and Quirindi who tell their kids that are travelling to Tamworth for work to go via the highway – that’s how worried they are about the road,” Mr Bacon said.
Mr Bacon has vowed to collect 10,000 signatures, which will force the issue to be debated in parliament.
“Then the minister will have to tell the community of Werris Creek why the road isn’t going to be fixed – or better yet, that it will be,” he said.
“I know we are really putting pressure on Mr Anderson, and I really hope it comes to something.”
Mr Anderson, who is Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Roads, said he’d already written to Minister Pavey about the issue.
“We’ve already received a response, and I’ve got a meeting with the RMS in the next week or two to discuss possible options,” Mr Anderson said.
“We need to look at what sections need to be fixed. I personally know a few that need to be fixed, as I travel that road quite a lot, so I’m really keen to see them upgraded.
“I’m always putting pressure on [the government] when the community comes to me with areas of concern.
“Werris Creek Road has been identified as part of the road network I’m working on, along with Port Stephens Cutting, Goonoo Goonoo Road and Rangari Road.”
Data from the RMS shows that, in the past five years, there have been 35 accidents on Werris Creek Road, including five fatalities.
The petition was tabled to Shooters MP Philip Donato, whom Mr Bacon has “a stack of respect for”.
“Six months before anyone was talking about the drought, he stood in parliament advocating on the behalf of farmers,” he said.