Year of making progress

Stuart Ayres with partner Marise Payne on 2015 election night.
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Going into the state election just over 12 months ago, Penrith MP Stuart Ayres was adamant that several local projects would be delivered if the O’Farrell Government was elected.

Upgrades to Victoria Bridge, increasing peak hours trains from Penrith to the CBD, creating local job opportunities here in Penrith and increasing nurses, beds and car parking at Nepean Hospital were considered top priorities for the local MP.

This week, the Weekender gave Mr Ayres the chance to grade his own report card. His progress was ranked between one and five (five being the most progress) for each of his key election commitments:

Victoria Bridge. Rank: 4
 “This is easily the most complex piece of infrastructure developed in Penrith for a number of years,” he said.

“We are essentially starting from scratch with this project, so it may be a little time before construction works start.

“Funding has been allocated and a steering committee has been established for a new pedestrian and cycle crossing.”

Mr Ayres said he was keen to start construction as soon as possible, but definitely within this term of government.

Increasing peak trains. Rank: 3
“Our commitment to rail services are also on track, with an additional 15 services a week to the Western Line,” he said.

Prior to the election, Mr Ayres promised five extra express trains between Penrith and the city – three in the morning peak and two in the afternoon. He came under fire last week when Opposition Leader, John Robertson, asked where the express trains were.

But Mr Ayres said Transport for NSW was currently undertaking a major re-write of the CityRail timetable to facilitate additional services, due for release in 2013.

More local jobs. Rank: 3
Mr Ayres promised to support local business, if he was elected, by creating opportunities for people to work locally, reducing the 60 per cent plus people who travel outside the local area for work.

“We’ve made significant progress on the development at the North Penrith site, which will be significant in supporting local jobs – it is estimated that about 180 construction jobs will be available,” he said.

He also cited Destination NSW as a key job provider, with Penrith securing the World Rowing Cup for 2013-14.

“I’ve also made progress with Penrith City Council and the Penrith Business Alliance in promoting Penrith as a regional city, especially with the development of the Penrith Health and Education Precinct,” Mr Ayres said.

Nepean Hospital. Rank: 4.5
The promise of a multi-storey car park at Nepean Hospital has attracted its fair share of criticism from hospital employees, patients and residents since Mr Ayres was elected. Funds were setaside in the first State Budget for the car park to be built in 2013, but locals said they were led to believe the car park would be built sooner. A 12,000 signature petition was collected from the community and presented to Mr Ayres earlier this year in a bid to speed up the process, but he says significant progress has been made.

“A development application has been lodged with the Council and construction will start on completion of the application,” he said.

“We had 81 new nurses start at Nepean Hospital, which is 45 more than in previous years. We’ve welcomed 27 additional beds.”

Mr Ayres said the Penrith region was under significant pressure to grow both as a population and as an economy, but he would continue to make sure this growth was matched with investments in infrastructure and services.

“I don’t think we could ever give ourselves a five in this job, there is always something to be done,” he said.

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