The Berejiklian-Barilaro government is expected to finally meet its commitment to regional NSW from the booty of the sale of “poles and wires” when the state budget is revealed.
Already significant infrastructure spends have been announced, but more is to follow that, as Deputy Premier John Barilaro told The Land last month, will “turbocharge” regional NSW.
Many councils though say they will hold the government to account if it does not come to the party on regional and rural investment. The new Regional Infrastructure Coordinator Ken Gillespie has been out in the regions discussing new projects and how they can be speeded up.
What the public already knows is that the government will spend:
- $534 million for new Tweed Heads hospital.
- $500m into new regional water infrastructure.
- $182m for Local Land Services ($23m boost).
- $46m for regional school internet access.
- $500m for Broken Hill water pipeline.
- $20m new mental health programs.
The Local Government Association has urged the government not to drop the ball on regional road funding, as hundreds of millions of dollars are poured into new city road networks.
Boosting the Regional Road Block Grant and the Fixing Country Roads program, combined with a new and complementary Fixing Metro Roads program, would help to underpin strong population and economic growth in NSW, Local Government NSW president Keith Rhoades said.
“NSW councils are wholly responsible for managing more than 164,000 kilometres of local roads in NSW – about 90 per cent,” he said.
“The life cycle cost to maintain and renew the whole local government roads and bridges network is estimated at $1.527 billion per year, with actual council expenditure in 2013/14 estimated at $1.080 billion.
“That leaves a life cycle funding gap of $447 million per year, which is why there is such a significant funding backlog.
“To its credit, the NSW Government largely maintained funding for the Regional Road Block Grant in last year’s State Budget, and delivered an overall $10.7 million boost to the Fixing Country Roads program” Cr Rhoades said.
“Unfortunately – and unsurprisingly given the extent of the backlog - still more funding is required so our roads are in a state to promote rather than hinder economic development.”
Tamworth’s mayor Col Murray has also indicated his city will be upset if the government does not help create a new intermodal rail freight hub through a budget announcement.
The government is hoping its big spend may restore some faith in the electorate after debacles over local government amalgamations and the greyhound ban. There is still much unease in the country over major new infrastructure projects impacting on prime farming land and coal seam gas expansion and pipeline construction through rural properties.