Blue Mountains tunnel a pipe dream: Nationals regional conference

SPEAKING UP: NSW deputy premier and state Nationals leader John Barilaro at the conference in Orange on Saturday. Photo: TANYA MARSCHKE
SPEAKING UP: NSW deputy premier and state Nationals leader John Barilaro at the conference in Orange on Saturday. Photo: TANYA MARSCHKE

Tourism opportunities, road safety and better transport routes were key issues raised at the NSW Nationals first Central West Regional Conference on Saturday.

National Party ministers and party heavyweights joined Nationals members from all over NSW for the conference at the Orange Ex-Services’ Club followed by a dinner at Duntryleague.

During conference the Nationals confirmed new road safety reforms, along with ongoing support for black spot funding, and more visible policing on the roads, were paramount to halting road deaths.

However a request to build a tunnel through the Blue Mountains was deemed unfeasible due to both its high cost and associated engineering difficulties.

The request came during a question and answer session between branch members and politicians.

Roads Minister Melinda Pavey said the concept wouldn’t be taken off the table completely but there would be issues providing exhaust ventilation over such a vast distance and the energy requirements would be great.

“There’s not tunnel which is like it around the world, even in Switzerland, we’ve been looking,” she said.

The conference was spearheaded by Orange-based Natural Resources and Western NSW parliamentary secretary Rick Colless.

Mr Colless said with members coming from a diverse cross-section of country NSW issues raised at the conference were just as diverse.

He said members talked about the difficulty of attracting and retaining teachers and medical staff along with the need for the Murray Darling Medical School. 

Mr Colless said with 120 members and another 20 National Party staff he was pleased with the turn out.

Among the speakers was NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro who said issues discussed at the conference would then be considered at the next state conference.

“It helps us devise the policies that we take through the budget process be they in the budget process this year or of course in the looming election and for us and the people of Orange its about reminding them that we haven’t gone away and are committed to delivering in the region and we are honouring our election commitments,” Mr Barilaro said.

Mr Barilaro would not be drawn on the absence or controversy surrounding federal Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.