STATE Roads Minister Terry Mulder is “stepping away” from overseeing a $515-million Princes Highway upgrade because he owns land next to the road.
The Member for Polwarth has declared a conflict of interest in the road upgrade between Colac and Winchelsea, which is in the planning stages.
Mr Mulder has asked for Ports Minister Denis Napthine to take over all responsibility for buying land for the highway, and planning the road’s alignment.
Mr Mulder said his self-managed superannuation fund owned a paddock on the Princes Highway at Warncoort, which could be in the path of the planned duplication.
He said handing over the planning process to Mr Napthine was “tough” because the duplication was an important project to him personally and as Victoria’s Roads Minister.
“It’s very close to my heart; even when I was in business in Colac I knew the duplication was going to set this part of the world up for the future,” Mr Mulder said.
“But it’s completely appropriate that I distance myself from the alignment.”
Mr Mulder said VicRoads’ initial concept plans for the four-lane highway could affect his land, with the possibility of a compulsory acquisition of a section of the block.
“When I purchased the property VicRoads had already purchased the land in front for the duplication but it’s not uncommon for the alignment to change when they come to finalise it,” he said.
“The space you see now might not be wide enough and after discussions with landholders VicRoads might need to compulsorily acquire land and in some places could have land they don’t need.
“But I have a potential conflict so I have written to the Premier and requested that the Minister for Ports have overall responsibility in relation to any reports and approvals on acquisition of land and alignment issues.”
Mr Mulder said Premier Ted Baillieu had approved the request and Mr Napthine had agreed to oversee briefings and reporting on the alignment project.
“Once the alignment and any acquisition is all sorted out I will have further discussions with the Premier to discuss if it’s appropriate for me to be involved with the construction,” he said.
Mr Mulder said funding for the Princes Highway duplication from Winchelsea to Colac was “locked in”, with a potential construction start by late 2014 or early 2015.
“We hope the next stage of the duplication to continue on after the Winchelsea to Geelong section is finished in 2014.”