The lack of public transport services available within the Cams Wharf, Catherine Hill Bay, Murrays Beach and Nords Wharf communities has been an issue for far too long. My office has been contacted by residents from these suburbs expressing their need for greater access to public transport. Currently only one transport service, the route 99 bus, operates via most of these communities. It operates only twice per weekday between Lake Haven and Charlestown via Catherine Hill Bay. On Saturdays there is only one northbound service and two southbound services. There are no services at all on Sundays and public holidays. The Cams Wharf, Catherine Hill Bay, Murrays Beach and Nords Wharf communities are witnessing a dramatic population growth due to a number of large‑scale residential developments taking place.
Recent developments include the Beaches estate at Catherine Hill Bay and the Murrays Beach estate. There are several other residential developments planned for the area, including one at Middle Camp, which is north of Catherine Hill Bay, Nords Wharf and Pinny Beach. With these developments in mind and the fact that many young families are moving to the area, Lake Macquarie City Council has estimated that the population of these communities will continue to grow from approximately 2,000 persons to almost 7,000 persons by 2036. These suburbs have been overlooked by the Government for public transport improvements for a number of years, many of which I have mentioned in this Parliament on a number of occasions. Given the area's growing population rate, greater public transport services are urgently needed to service these communities and prevent social isolation.
In addition, many Cams Wharf, Catherine Hill Bay, Murrays Beach and Nords Wharf parents and guardians have shared with me the difficulties they experience in getting their children to and from school each day because of the lack of transport services. I am aware that there are no morning school bus services to Swansea High School, which is in actual fact the local high school for Catherine Hill Bay students. There are also no school bus services to or from the local Catholic schools to Lake Munmorah and Swansea. Due to the absence of school bus services operating via these communities, parents and guardians are required to transport their kids to and from a bus stop on the Pacific Highway or at Nords Wharf. This is difficult for many working families, who often have work-related commitments around school start and finish times. In fact, one mother has informed me that she has to book a taxi for her son to travel to and from school most days because she and her husband work.
Safety is also a major issue. Given the walking distance to the bus stops, combined with the 80 kilometre per hour speed limit on the Pacific Highway, poor crash history and lack of safe crossing facilities, it is simply too dangerous for these kids to catch a bus on the highway. I understand that some parents and guardians are eligible for a School Drive Subsidy because of the limited public transport available in these areas. The subsidy offsets the cost of parents and guardians using their vehicle to drive their children all or part of the way to school. I have no doubt that this subsidy has assisted some of the impacted families. However, this measure would also be costing the Government a substantial amount of money and does not sufficiently address the lack of public transport services available within those communities of Cams Wharf, Catherine Hill Bay, Murrays Beach and Nords Wharf.
Moreover, buses do not operate in Murrays Beach, despite the number of bus stops present in the estate. In April 2018 I provided the former Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast and the Hunter with a petition of more than 500 signatures from Murrays Beach residents calling on the New South Wales Government to provide them with public transport services. While I understand that the roads within the Murrays Beach estate are quite narrow and are not suitable for large buses, I have suggested to both past and present transport Ministers that small and medium buses be a solution. Despite this, no action has been taken.
The people of Cams Wharf, Catherine Hill Bay, Murrays Beach and Nords Wharf have been denied appropriate access to public transport services for far too long. The lack of transport services available to these communities is an issue that I have continually raised with the former transport Minister, with no action taken. I hope that the current transport Minister acknowledges the severity of this issue and provides Cams Wharf, Catherine Hill Bay, Murrays Beach and Nords Wharf residents with the public transport system they deserve. I invite the transport Minister to come and see first hand how difficult it is for these parents, and I hope that he can see how disadvantaged these communities are.