Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen outlines 2020 plans for Scone, Hunter and State

PLANNING AHEAD: Michael Johnsen is planning to further develop the Scone Bypass and Kelly Street projects in 2020. FILE PHOTO
PLANNING AHEAD: Michael Johnsen is planning to further develop the Scone Bypass and Kelly Street projects in 2020. FILE PHOTO

IF 2019 was the year of promises, also known as an election year, then 2020 will be the year real action is taken on those pledges, according to Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen.

The major focuses will be on completing the Scone Bypass, which is set to be completed ahead of its mid-year schedule, and more crucially advancing the revitalisation of Kelly Street.

An extra $7 million was allocated to help overhaul the main street at the 2019-20 state budget, although nothing beyond planning is likely to begin before the bypass itself is open.

Mr Johnsen, who was mayor of Upper Hunter Shire Council (UHSC) in 2012 when negotiations were ongoing with the department formerly known as Roads and Maritime Services, said a number of issues must be addressed.

Drainage and road works will take up the bulk of funds given to UHSC, he revealed, although it will also be a slow process.

"There's pretty major works that actually have to be done, and we'll continue to work with council so we can get those jobs completed," he said.

"It is going to have to be a staged process though, it has a major impact when a major road which goes through a CBD like Kelly Street does, gets upgraded."

He also emphasised the importance or remaining 'sympathetic' to businesses, and ensuring the major development doesn't have too much of an adverse effect on their sales.

Lobbying for further funding for the project is also on the MP's radar, while he's expecting to have a lot of communication with Transport NSW.

Preliminary planning has reportedly been underway for the best part of a decade, while groups such as the Scone Chamber of Commerce and Industry have recently been public forums to get an understanding of what the public want to see.

The highly discussed Scone Aviation Attraction Centre is also something he will be keeping a close eye on, after the state government poured $6.5 million into the project last year.

When asked whether he had any big ticket items in the pipeline for 2020, the former dairy farmer said he didn't want to be a politician that's all bark and no bite.

"We've made a number of commitments and we're progressing along with those commitments, and the number one issue for me that it's about delivery," he said.

"I don't want to come out every year and say 'we're going to start this new thing and that new thing and so on', I want to deliver on our commitments and that takes time."

Mr Johnsen's plans for the year extend beyond local issues though and there are a number of bills going ahead of parliament that he is taking a particular interest in.

Late last year he played an instrumental role in calling on the state government to amend any legislation or regulation in order to allow selective grazing in state owned parks and forests for the purposes of hazard reduction.

This year, it is the bill proposing planning authorities stop taking the pollution impact of exported Australian coal into account when determining whether a project is environmentally viable or not - also known as scope 3 emissions, that has piqued his interest.

His belief is that Australia should not be responsible for what its coal is used for in other countries, and will be fighting to push that legislation through.

Finally, he will aim to allow more back burning and hazard reduction in the Upper Hunter throughout the year, in an attempt to negate the possibility of seeing more devastation next fire season.

The unprecedented blazes which have effected several states, burnt a record 4.9 million hectares in NSW alone, and sent smoke hazes as far as South America have been raging on since October.

Despite a changing climate providing less time for controlled burns, the parliamentary secretary for Agriculture is aiming to fight past the bureaucracy to allow more next year.

"I've got local Indigenous groups knocking on my door, and they have been for the last 6 to 12 months, wanting to do more of it [back burning]," he revealed.

"I can tell you that I have come across internal, bureaucratic resistance to hazard reduction and forest floor management."

He said it was time for the government to work closer with the community and listen to the advice of 'people on the ground', to avoid such a tragedy occurring again.