Regional NSW will be at the centre of this year’s NSW budget as the government unleashes its massive chest of funds to “turbocharge” regional centres.
In an interview with The Land, Minister for Regional NSW and Deputy Premier John Barilaro outlined a plan to turbocharge numerous regional centres in NSW, building new infrastructure “ to unblock” hold-ups to investment.
Mr Barilaro said the regional investment would be “significant” and a “game changer”.
Using it’s hard-won state government funds from “six years of budget savings” and the privatisation of government agencies and the “poles and wires” sale, the new plans will include building new gas pipelines, regional freight nodes, sewerage systems, sporting fields and cultural centres.
Tamworth is in line to become an international airport freight centre, as the government looks to build on its recent growth as a food processing centre.
“What we are about is creating new regional growth funds, growing local economies, that is about how do we build and how do we turbocharge those local economies, grow jobs, bring investment, build that enabling infrastructure and really turbocharge those main regional centres - with the ripple effect going beyond that ?
“In the budget, it will be clear this government is looking well beyond Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. It will be significant investment.”
Asked if it would be more than $200m, Mr Barilaro said “significantly more”. The regional funding boost would be at the centre of this year’s NSW budget.
“It will be a game changer. Look at places like Wagga, Tamworth, Dubbo what can we do to turbocharge those areas to take them to another level ? We won’t lose sight of other areas, we will guarantee a base level of service delivery and infrastructure. Queanbeyan, Griffith, Armidale - they are all areas we will look at as well.
“We’ve mapped out regional NSW, where there are opportunities. We’ve also looked at where the impediments to growth are, and where are the obstacles that have previously stopped that investment. We want to really change the landscape. Cut red tape, fast track the processes.
“Each region has its strength. Tamworth for example is becoming a great centre for food processing. We would look at its airport becoming an international gateway for freight. We know there are some issues around internodals, sewerage, gas pipelines, that is the kind of stuff we want to unblock.”
Mr Barilaro said it was all money accounted for in the budget.
“This is new money, not only had the poles and wire money, but the LPI (Land Titles $800m sale) transaction - and other asset transactions. This is about giving it back to the regions.
“People don’t want to hear about this come election time. There will still be another budget (in 2018) and then there will be election promises. We have an opportunity right now because of the tough decisions we’ve made over the last six years to now go to another level.”
The regional investment would be backed by incentives, including tax concessions, to get businesses and people to set up in regional cities and towns.
“People will follow jobs. I’m awaiting the outcome of an inquiry I commissioned into zonal taxation. We want to use taxes as a lever for attracting people, payroll tax concessions is one way and to work with the feds on other tax relief such as company tax. It’s about building amenities as well, sporting fields, cultural investments to make liveable cities in the regions.”