Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Address-In-Reply to Governor of NSW

NorthConnex Tunnel in Construction

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai) (12:09:07): When the Governor delivered her speech in the first session of the Fifty-Seventh Parliament, Her Excellency spoke of the Government's plan for New South Wales and how it builds on "the vision, hard work and determination demonstrated during the Fifty-Fifth and Fifty‑Sixth terms of Parliament." While I thank the Governor for her kind words, Government members are well aware that, despite eight years of great progress and accomplishment, there is much to do during this term to ensure that we continue to improve the lives of everyone in New South Wales.

As the member for Ku-ring-gai I acknowledge that I have the good fortune to represent, and live in, one of the most beautiful areas of the State, with heritage streetscapes, bushland surrounds, plentiful parklands and wide open spaces. It is nonetheless true that the residents of Ku-ring-gai demand, and are entitled to expect, that the Government will work as hard for them as it does for those who live in other parts of the State, and that it will address the problems that they face with the same zeal and commitment that it demonstrates elsewhere. In that regard, the achievements of the past four years in Ku-ring-gai have, no doubt, filled my constituents with every confidence that the Government will continue to represent their interests and that the future for New South Wales is very bright indeed.

In 2020 we will see the completion of the $3 billion NorthConnex project, the nine-kilometre twin tunnels that will link the M1 Pacific Motorway at Wahroonga in my electorate to the Hills M2 motorway at West Pennant Hills, enabling motorists and around 5,000 heavy vehicles per day to bypass 21 sets of traffic lights along Pennant Hills Road, and providing more reliable and safer travel conditions while also returning streets to local communities. The project will also help reduce traffic noise on Pennant Hills Road for nearby residents. It is truly a transformative project, which will ease congestion and boost the State and national economies by providing more reliable journeys and shorter travel times for the movement of freight. At the same time, the Government has completed new and extended clearways on the Pacific Highway between Pennant Hills Road, Wahroonga, and Mona Vale Road, Pymble, as part of its $121 million Clearways Program, which aims to reduce congestion and delays on Sydney's roads.

The Government is also progressing plans for proposed improvements to the Pacific Highway as part of its $300 million Urban Roads Pinch Point Program, which also has the objective of reducing congestion and improving travel times on Sydney's busiest corridors. The proposal is to widen the road to provide three continuous northbound lanes and maintain three continuous southbound lanes at a number of key intersections between Turramurra and Wahroonga. That would not only provide significant benefits for the 60,000 motorists who use the Pacific Highway every day, but also improve pedestrian safety by installing pedestrian refuges. In respect of transport, last year the Government spent $800 million to upgrade the capacity of the T1 North Shore Line, which has resulted in an increase in the number of train services and provided better options for commuters.

In doing so, local public transport users were necessarily required to suffer some short-term pain, such as line closures, which are unavoidably inconvenient and inevitably require commuters to catch buses—which have less capacity and are subject to the road delays. Some users had to change their travel arrangements altogether. However, the work has resulted in services that are both more frequent and less full, particularly in the morning peak hours, and it has enabled passengers to transfer more regularly and efficiently from trains on the spectacular new Sydney Metro Northwest line to trains on the T1 North Shore line at Chatswood Station. In addition, planning is currently underway for accessibility upgrades to five railways stations in the Ku‑ring‑gai electorate: Wahroonga, Waitara, Pymble and Warrawee on the T1 North Shore Line and Normanhurst on the T9 Northern Line.

Through its Transport Access Program the Government has made a commitment to making public transport more modern, safe, integrated and accessible for those with a disability, those who are less mobile and those using a pram or carrying luggage. Under the Transport Access Program transport interchange facilities and a new 214-space commuter car park with five accessible parking spaces were delivered at Gordon only a few months after I was first elected to Parliament in 2015. At the time that $23.3 million piece of transport infrastructure was one of the most significant expenditures on public transport in Ku‑ring‑gai since the railway line was extended to Gordon in the 1890s. It brought new bus stands, a bus drivers' amenities room, taxi zones, weather-protected waiting areas, improved signage, accessible pathways, a new pedestrian crossing, lift and stair access, improved lighting and CCTV cameras that have since made it easier for the disabled, the elderly, and parents with prams to catch public transport.

That same car park now hosts a trial of Opal Park and Ride, a program designed to provide more spaces at commuter car parks for customers who wish to travel on public transport—regardless of when they enter the car park. It provides those customers with up to 18 hours free parking when they tap on and tap off public transport with their Opal card, and it addresses the issue of as many as 46 per cent of commuter car parking spaces being used by people who do not then use public transport. The Opal Park and Ride trial will be expanded to other Ku‑ring‑gai commuter car parks in the future. It is a great example of the use of cutting-edge technology by the Government to improve the overall public transport experience.

In the case of Wahroonga Station's upgrade, the planning is well advanced: Community consultation with the local community took place late last year, the invitation to tender closed in February and the contract for the construction of a new lift, upgraded access pathways and ramps, a new accessible toilet, new kiss and ride zone, new accessible parking and improvements to CCTV and lighting to increase safety and security is expected to be awarded next month. For several years, residents of Waitara have been part of a strong campaign to secure lift access to Waitara Station, so they welcomed the Government's announcement in January that Waitara Station was earmarked for an upgrade.

The decision to proceed with all five stations is an outstanding outcome for Ku‑ring‑gai commuters and their quality of life. Those commuters will no doubt also benefit from the Government's announcement in March that it will lower the Opal weekly travel cap from 1 July 2019 by about 20 per cent to $50 for all train, bus, ferry and light rail customers. Thousands of people will save up to $686 a year in addition to enjoying the other Opal benefits, namely the weekly travel reward, the Opal transfer discount, the $2.50 gold Opal cap and the $2.70 Sunday cap. They will also be able to travel on a new Waratah Series 2 train, featuring air conditioning with temperature control, high-definition customer information screens, internal and external CCTV cameras, customer help points, priority seating, wheelchair spaces and hearing loops for people with hearing aids. This year 24 of these trains will be introduced to the suburban network and another 17 will be deployed in 2020, making the network more reliable and more comfortable than ever before.

In 2015 stage one of the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital redevelopment was announced. The Government has delivered a $121 million investment in clinical and support services facilities. In July 2018 the member for Hornsby and Minister for Energy and Environment, Matt Kean, and I helped mark the commencement of stage two by turning the sod. Stage two will deliver a refurbished and expanded emergency department and a new clinical services building. The latter will house the intensive care and high dependency units, combined respiratory/cardiac and coronary care beds, a cardiac investigations unit, medical imaging and paediatrics. Stage two will cost about $200 million. Minister Kean and I returned to the hospital in December last year to open a $19.8 million multistorey car park that offers over 500 spaces for staff, visitors and the public.

The redevelopment of the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital together with the opening of the new Northern Beaches Hospital at Frenchs Forest in 2018 are just two of the more than 100 new or upgraded hospitals that have been built in New South Wales in the past eight years or that are to be built with an $8 billion investment of funds over four years. These new hospitals will ensure that our local health professionals have the best possible clinical equipment and emergency facilities to treat our community and train future health professionals. They will be complemented by a $2.8 million investment that is anticipated to yield the following in the Northern Sydney Local Health District alone: 408 new nurses and midwives, including mental health and residential care nurses; 101 more doctors; 84 additional allied health staff, including pharmacists, social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and psychologists; and 96 more hospital support staff.

I have spoken a number of times in this House about how fortunate the electorate of Ku-ring-gai is to be a centre of outstanding public, Catholic and independent school education in New South Wales. As in other parts of the State, demand for places at our public schools has grown exponentially in recent years, but the growth has been matched by the Government's record funding for all three sectors. In 2018 Killara Public School underwent a $6 million upgrade. This includes a new two-storey block with eight permanent future-focused learning spaces, and makes Killara Public School perfectly placed to meet the needs of many generations of local students. I note that the member for Pittwater is at the table. He accompanied me to the opening of that new school building. The upgrade also includes new amenities for students and a brand-new multipurpose sports court. As part of the project, seven existing demountable classrooms have been removed to make way for a new permanent school building and playground space.

Waitara Public School has received planning approval for a major redevelopment project that will include 37 new classrooms, a new hall, a canteen and an administrative area. It will enable the school to accommodate up to 1,000 students and meet the substantially increased enrolment demand in the local area. The Ku-ring-gai High School in North Turramurra business case has been approved, and a development application has been submitted for a new multipurpose hall and the refurbishment of 15 of the school's existing teaching spaces. When complete, the new hall will have an 800-seat capacity and will cater for a range of activities from sport and cultural events to school assemblies and performances, providing a valuable new asset for the school community. This is especially appropriate, given that Ku-ring-gai High School is a performing arts school.

More than 170 new and upgraded schools are being delivered as part of the Government's record $6 billion investment in school infrastructure and—for the first time in the State's history—the school maintenance backlog will be wiped to zero by July 2020, ensuring students at over 2,200 public schools enjoy the best possible learning environments. Clearing this backlog is no mean achievement. Under the former Labor Government the backlog amounted to $1 billion and a number of schools were falling embarrassingly into disrepair, including in my electorate of Ku-ring-gai. As at 30 June 2018 the maintenance backlog was $4.3 million and the Government's investment of a further $449 million will bring its total investment to nearly $1.3 billion. In Ku-ring-gai 11 public schools and 4 high schools will benefit from the additional maintenance works, which will accelerate overdue work such as carpeting, roof repairs and painting.

The Government's commitment to delivering more useable and inclusive play spaces for the people of New South Wales has also been felt in Ku-ring-gai. The Government has contributed $600,000 towards the planning, design and construction of an inclusive play space in Waitara Park, which was opened in April this year by the Mayor of Hornsby, the Hon. Philip Ruddock. I was very happy to accompany Mayor Ruddock at that opening. The play space includes two separate fenced playgrounds, exercise equipment, barbecue facilities, park furniture and landscaping with new plants and trees. Most importantly, it will provide health and social benefits for the community, the value of which cannot be overestimated. I note that it was a well-attended opening, with a very enthusiastic community experiencing that new playground.

It is perhaps easier to put a number on the savings that families have enjoyed through the measures that the Government has introduced to help ease the cost of living. Ku-ring-gai residents are enthusiastic supporters of cheaper green slips as well as the $100 Active Kids voucher and the Creative Kids vouchers, which have made sporting, recreational and artistic activities much more accessible. The news that a second Active Kids voucher will be available for the July to December period this year and that two Active Kids vouchers will be available for the entire 2020 calendar year has been met with universal approval.

If a family has three children who participate in two sports and a creative kids activity, that represents a saving of $900 to that family, which is a great contribution towards the children's extracurricular activities. Prior to the election of the Coalition Government in 2011, the New South Wales Labor Government had operated a socio-economic model for the allocation of Community Building Partnership grants, pursuant to which Ku‑ring‑gai's allocation was only $200,000 instead of the $300,000 enjoyed by other electorates. That model was still in existence when I was elected as the member for Ku-ring-gai in 2015. [Extension of time]

Due to the Coalition Government's expert management of its budgets, over the past four years the Community Building Partnership allocation first increased to $300,000 for all electorates and then last year it increased again to $330,000. The schools, sports clubs and community groups that have benefited from those grants since 2015 are as follows: Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary School received an expansion of its community kitchen; St Stephen's Anglican Church, Normanhurst, received a pre-school kitchenette and outside sinks and bubblers; West Pymble Public School received an outdoor learning environment; Hornsby Shire Historical Society received air conditioning, a wireless system and repairs to its heritage building; 1st East Wahroonga Scouts received a kitchen upgrade; and Easy Care Gardening received a fit-out of its new office premises.

As well, Ku-ring-gai Netball Association received a clubhouse upgrade; St Lucy's School received an improvement to its classroom acoustics; KU Wahroonga Pre-School received internal painting; Gordon West Public School received play equipment; Turramurra North Public School received a hall upgrade; Ku‑ring‑gai Meals on Wheels received a refrigeration upgrade; Ku-ring-gai Cubs Rugby League Club received a storage room upgrade; Turramurra Baptist Church received an infants' playground; Pymble Public School received a playground upgrade; West Pymble Football Club received team shelters and full-size goals; North Turramurra Guides received repairs to the deck floor and railing of its hall; Ku-ring-gai High School received an upgrade of the kitchen facilities in its hall; and St Matthew's Anglican Church West Pymble received a community playground.

Further, Life Education received a grant for the installation of a hydraulic wheelchair lift; Ku-ring-gai Hockey Centre received a grant to purchase an electronic scoreboard; Seventh Day Adventist Aged Care Wahroonga Estate received an off-leash dog park; Normanhurst Public School received a grant towards its infants' inclusive playground; Hornsby Girls' High School received a grant to install hybrid tennis, futsal courts and LED lights; Turramurra Bowling Club received a rejuvenated clubhouse exterior and community information board; Ku‑ring‑gai Philharmonic Orchestra received a digital harpsichord; Beaumont Road Public School received shade over its playground asphalt; South Turramurra Girl Guides received trailers and a renovation of its storage area; Sunnyfield West Pymble received a covered outdoor area at a shared home, which I inspected recently; and St Andrew's Anglican Church Wahroonga received hearing loop repairs and a church hall roof replacement.

Also, 2nd Turramurra Scouts received a bathroom refurbishment; Gordon Golf Club received a renovation and repair of its function room; 1st Pymble Scouts received driveway and pathway upgrades; St Paul's Wahroonga received acoustics treatment to its memorial hall; Wahroonga Public School received an amphitheatre upgrade; the Girl Guides NSW Glengarry received a toilet block; 2HHH FM received new broadcast and studio equipment; Hornsby Ku-ring-gai PCYC received double glazing of its windows; Kissing Point Sports Club received a baseball and softball batting cage; Ku-ring-gai Amateur Swimming Club received an upgrade of its starting and diving blocks and backstroke ledges; Wahroonga Presbyterian Church received a refurbishment of the church and its toilet block; Killara Public School received a playground refurbishment; and Wahroonga Rugby Club received a grant for an electronic scoreboard. All those grants have been delivered in the past four years because this Government has its budget under control and is providing necessary infrastructure to local communities to make all of our citizens better off, not just a few.

The Governor noted that the Government's agenda is "to make a real and lasting difference for the people of New South Wales". The clear evidence in Ku-ring-gai is that it already has and that it is constantly looking for ways to do more. I look forward to four more years of growth, prosperity and success for New South Wales under this Government. The Government has delivered massive infrastructure projects for the people of New South Wales. All levels of the community have received outstanding infrastructure, which is in stark contrast to the 16 years of the former Labor Government when it was never able to get its finances in order. The hard labour of those 16 years is still clear in the memories of the people of New South Wales. We will never forget how our public schools—one of which I was very fortunate to attend—had a $1 billion backlog because of the inappropriate management of the budget by the former Labor Government.