THE Hunter’s long-run of wet weather will delay the opening of the $1.7 billion Hunter Expressway until after the new year.
And the tender for the lease of the Port of Newcastle should be complete by the middle of next year, the NSW minister for roads and ports confirmed yesterday.
Speaking at a Hunter Business Chamber lunch on Friday, Duncan Gay said sustained heavy rain in November meant the vital infrastructure link was not likely to open until ‘‘mid to late January’’.
The 40-kilometre, four-lane expressway is the state’s biggest infrastructure project, but Mr Gay confirmed it would miss the original deadline of before Christmas.
‘‘How good would it have been to give it as a Christmas present to the people of the Hunter, but look it’s not going to happen,’’ Mr Gay said after the lunch.
Once complete it will run from north-west Lake Macquarie to Branxton, cutting travel times through the Hunter.
Mr Gay also said the port lease was attracting strong interest both domestically and locally, with a successful bidder likely to be announced by the middle of next year.
‘‘That’s what it’s looking like, there’s certainly a lot of interest in it ... this one looks like it will definitely fly,’’ he said.
He said he was aware of at least one local bidder.
‘‘There’s huge international interest and certainly I’m very pleased to see strong local interest as well,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m aware of at least one [and] my understanding it is more than one organisation [In a consortium],’’ he said.
In a wide-ranging speech Mr Gay also called the duplication of the Tourle Street Bridge ‘‘essential’’ but stopped short of calling on the federal government to match the funding put forward by the state government.
‘‘We’ve spoken to the Federal government to indicate our on-going support to it,’’ he said.