Presenting the petition on Willoughby Rd at Wamberal

Thursday, 01 September 2016

 This has been a time of great sadness on the Central Coast with two sudden and fatal incidents on our roads, which have sent shock waves through our tight-knit community. A bit over a month ago, teenager Jackson Williams died on Willoughby Road at Wamberal. Jackson was a back seat passenger in a car that left the road, hitting a power pole. A year 11 student at Lisarow High School, Jackson was a respected member of our community, described by friends as being full of life, laughs and ambition. Just three weeks later, a mother of four young children, Annabelle Deall, who was aged just 32, was killed after being struck by a car outside The Cowrie restaurant in Terrigal.

I spoke to a number of local residents who were concerned about the impact and the dangers of this location on the Scenic Highway. In fact, somebody has since stencilled the words 'slow down' in white spray paint on the road surface approaching the bend. It is both a powerful reminder and a poignant warning. While investigations are underway into both these tragedies, I would like to take a moment to pay my respects to the family and friends who have been an impacted by these horrific incidents. The loss of a son and the loss of a mother in this way is quite devastating and almost unbearable to think about, but both are examples of how our Central Coast community has shown great strength in adversity.

I intend to rise in this place at another time to speak about Annabelle and the tragic incident on the Scenic Highway at Terrigal and to advocate on behalf of my community for change, but with just the short time allotted today I will focus on honouring a commitment I made to the people of Wamberal and discuss a petition that is being collected by residents about the dangers of Willoughby Road. The crash happened on a notorious stretch of the road called 'the dip'. RMS figures reveal it has been the scene of 20 incidences over the last decade, including 12 resulting in injuries and one fatality.

Incredibly, our community has quickly rallied to call for improvements to the road. An online petition was started by a local nurse, Lindy Hewett, on the website Lindy had no personal connection with the family involved but she has seen enough tragedy and she wanted to do something about it. The petition calls for the Willoughby Road causeway to be levelled and for traffic-calming measures to be installed between Windsor Road and Selma Close. Here we had a horrific tragedy that nobody ever wanted to see happen and yet, despite that, like so often happens on the Central Coast, our community response and support was, quite simply, overwhelming. Indeed, it was actually Jilly Pilon, who also lost her own young son Banjo tragically just over a year ago in another road accident also at Wamberal, who first alerted me to the petition within hours of it being launched.

When Lindy came to my office recently to present the petition to me it contained more than 5,000 signatures, 1,500 comments and, as you can see here, over 220 pages. There are many beautiful tributes to Jackson contained in this petition by the many people who knew him and loved him and many others who sit in their homes at night listening to the cars speed by on Willoughby Road and who feel unsafe. The most courageous post was from Jackson's mother, Michelle. Michelle said: Please listen to us. As a resident of the coast all my life I am aware of the dip on the road and the notoriety of it. I want to scream but who will hear me? Please sign to help prevent further loss of life.

These words alone are difficult to hear, yet they have moved us all as a community to action. While we know that this cannot be fixed overnight, my commitment is that I am certainly not going to rest until it is done and I know our community will not allow us to rest until it is done either.

One of the first steps in this process has been to speak with the New South Wales government, and I want to commend the advocacy and determination of the member for Terrigal, Adam Crouch MP, who has worked closely with me on this process. I have also been speaking directly with the Central Coast Council and last week raised this matter directly with the CEO, Rob Noble. I understand that the council has applied for funding under the next round of the Australian government black spot funding program.

My commitment remains that I will fight to see some funding delivered. It is an honour to be here today with this petition in what is a small but very important step in that process and also to meet with the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, earlier today. Of course, as Lindy said to me, this does not change the heartache of many, but we hope that in some small way it may work towards ensuring such a tragedy does not happen again

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