Construction has started in Benalla for the precast concrete facility whose first contract is to supply the West Gate Tunnel Project.
The facility was recently put in jeopardy after the Coalition blocked planning for the tunnel project in Victoria’s upper house.
However, Coalition MPs said the facility would be built regardless as Labor had made it clear the tunnel project would go ahead despite planning permission being blocked, which appears to be the case.
This has been confirmed by a spokesperson from the tunnel project.
‘‘Fencing works began on site last week and will continue until the end of April,’’ the spokesperson said.
‘‘Two driveways to the site are also under construction.’’
State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said the plant was ‘‘never in doubt’’.
‘‘I was disappointed that Labor MPs sought to exploit the project and people’s potential jobs to stir up fear about it,’’ Ms Ryan said.
‘‘Daniel Andrews has been saying all the way along that the Westgate distributor tunnel was going ahead.
‘‘Yet they repeatedly sought to tell people in Benalla that the concrete plant was at risk, which was just simply not true.
‘‘I think it shows that Labor will stoop to just about anything for political gain and I think that’s disappointing.’’
However, Roads Minister Luke Donnellan said while some work at the site had started, contract negotiations were ongoing and the project could still be stopped.
‘‘I want to thank the community and the local member Jaclyn Symes for keeping the pressure up on the Nationals, who continue to try to use dodgy parliamentary stunts to delay this project and the 400 jobs it will bring for Benalla,’’ Mr Donnellan said.
‘‘While we’ve been able to do some early work at the site, contract negotiations are continuing — these negotiations are progressing well, but they are not helped by the Nationals’ attempts to block this project.
‘‘We’re working hard to get shovels in the ground at the precast facility as soon as possible.’’
While they might just be constructing access roads and fencing at this stage, a trip past the site will confirm that those shovels are already in the ground.
Ms Ryan said Labor’s assertion that the tunnel project might not happen was just ‘‘political games’’ and that the factory would be tendering for many other contracts.
‘‘We (the Nationals) have already put billions of dollars of infrastructure projects on the table including rail upgrades,’’ she said.
‘‘We’ve also announced a program of removing intersections in congested parts of Melbourne, the like of which will use a significant amount of pre-cast concrete.
‘‘It is my hope that John Holland and CPB Constructions would seek to tender for work like that to make sure that this plant is ongoing beyond the life of the current project it’s in part being built to supply.
‘‘We’ll be going to the (November) election with a full plan for infrastructure that I hope this plant will be able to supply into the future.’’