Meet the families that built the Pacific Highway

22 December 2020

The Pacific Highway upgrade has better connected communities right along the 657-kilometre stretch from Hexham to the Queensland border since it began 24 years ago, but it’s also connected families as they come together to work on the country’s biggest ever regional road project.

NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said jobs creation was one of the biggest issues for people living in the bush.

“Since construction started on the Pacific Highway upgrade 24 years ago we have created work for a staggering 40,000 people over 657km of roads,” Mr Barilaro said.

“Everyone who has played a role in working on this upgrade should be proud that they have contributed to a legacy that will be utilised by Australians for generations to come, saving people valuable time and protecting lives.”

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said the $15 billion project had created more than 40,000 direct jobs during its lifespan, with more than 3000 of these on the final section of the Woolgoolga to Ballina project.

“This multi-generational project has transformed journeys up and down the North Coast, cutting two and a half hours off travel times and reducing the number of fatalities by about 75 per cent,” Mr Toole said.

“Thousands of workers can now drive this highway, knowing they’ve helped deliver one of the most important road upgrades in our State’s history – in many cases, working side by side with members of their family.”

Murray Curnow-Rose, the Head of Human Capital at Pacific Complete, has worked on the Pacific Highway upgrade since March 2017 alongside his now-husband Scott Curnow-Rose, a Quality Auditor.

“We have always been together on projects - different projects, different companies but always in the industry together, and construction is a fantastic industry,” Murray said.

“In the construction industry you meet people, you get to know each other, cross paths, and here, on the Pacific Highway upgrade, it has been very social.”

Murray and Scott have worked on the Woolgoolga to Ballina stretch of the Pacific Highway upgrade together for the past three years, and it has been during this time they exchanged vows.

“We feel lucky to be working on a construction project together that has gone for so long because there are some very deep and long relationships that have formed, and it is those relationships that will live on, even once the project is completed,” Murray said.

“Both of our backgrounds are in human resources as well, so we certainly have an amicable way of talking to each other about things.”

Like Murray and Scott, Simon Wilson, an Environment Officer at Transport for NSW, and his wife Emma, who is in payments and administration, work together on the Woolgoolga to Ballina stretch of the Pacific Highway upgrade.

But the family connection doesn’t stop there – Simon’s mum Leanne also works on the Pacific Highway upgrade as a Government Information Services Officer.

Leanne has been part of Transport for NSW for more than four decades, and Simon remembers his routine trips to the office with Leanne, where he was unknowingly visiting his future workplace.

“I still recall coming into the office and sitting at mum’s desk as a little school kid, not knowing what mum was working on,” Simon said.

“But what I know now is that it was the Pacific Highway upgrade, and here I am today finishing the upgrade alongside my mum and wife.”

What would be considered an unusual dynamic for some has been a time of pride and joy for Leanne, who has spent nine of her 40 years at Transport for NSW working in the company of her son on the Pacific Highway upgrade.

“I am extremely proud of him being here, being part of something that has been a major part of my life,” Leanne said.

Murray and Scott Curnow-Rose and Simon, Emma and Leanne Wilson are just some of the families that bind the Pacific Highway.

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