Treasurer Dominic Perrottet declared the 2019/20 budget as one "for the bush". This claim does have some merit, with regional NSW handed a large slice of the $93 billion budget pie.
The unrelenting drought featured prominently in the treasurer's budget speech and as announced last week, there is an additional $355 million for drought support measures for farmers and town water infrastructure.
This includes an extra $70 million for transport rebates and $170 million for improving water security in regional towns. The state government has recognised the mental health impact of this crippling drought and responded to our advice by investing more in farm gate counselling services.
There was also a $350 million top up to the Farm Innovation Fund, meaning the government's commitments to drought support will reach almost $2 billion. This drought will break eventually and regional NSW will need to have the capacity to take advantage of a revival in local food and fibre production.
That is why NSW Farmers asked for an $8 billion investment in regional transport and digital infrastructure, education and health as part of our FOCUS pre-election campaign.
Thanks to a positive budget result and the Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund, the budget has started to meet this critical need.
The budget papers have confirmed $1 billion over five years to improve country roads and bridges, $200 million to flood proof the Newell Highway between Forbes and West Wyalong, $19.2 million to start the Great Western Highway upgrade and $44 million for Silver City and Cobb highway upgrades.
It's now time to fast track the planning of this infrastructure spend and get on with the job of construction so regional communities can realise the long-term benefits as soon as possible.
- James Jackson is the president of NSW Farmers.