The NSW budget is out, and the news is good - if you live in Western Sydney but the heartland of NSW, the regions, have not been heard.
Chair of the Country Mayors Association of NSW Cr Jamie Chaffey who is Gunnedah Shire Council's mayor, said the CMA delivered five very clear budget priorities for regional NSW to the state government after surveying the 84 member councils representing one-third of NSW residents.
Mr Chaffey said the first look at the budget showed while billions of dollars worth of projects were listed for Western Sydney, New South Wales' heartland had not been heard.
"Our members and their communities told us very clearly they need help with financial sustainability," Cr Chaffey said.
"They need help with transport, roads, health, housing, and labour shortages.
"While there are glimmers of hope among the budget documents, the 2023-24 NSW Budget does not send a message of support to all the Councils and the millions of regional and rural people they represent.
"There are no surprises, and nothing will help regional Councils deal with the escalating costs, the increasing demands, and the massive tasks they are faced with.
"Over the next four years, we are looking at $7.9 billion for the Sydney Metro-Western Sydney Airport project, $2.4 billion for Western Sydney roads, $3.5 billion for Western Sydney schools, an increase of $400 million for Rouse Hill Hospital (taking the total to $700 million), and an additional $1 billion towards the Sydney Metro City to Southwest project. Those projects cost more than $14 billion for Western Sydney alone.
"Curiously, at the same time, major regional projects such as the duplication of the Great Western Highway, the Dungowan Dam, and the Wyangala Dam have disappeared from the budget altogether.
"It is a relief to see that some critical projects - like new hospitals - remain, but we need to look at the increased funding the rapid increase in construction costs requires."
Compared with the $14 billion for Western Sydney already mentioned, regional NSW has $1.8 billion listed for new investment.
"As regional New South Wales deals with increasing crime, it is disappointing in the extreme to see scant mention of funding to address this problem - 15 additional police officers for Murwillumbah and 20 in Western Sydney will need to go further," Cr Chaffey said.
"There are definitely some positives here for all NSW residents including regional residents. We are encouraged to see funding for additional paramedics, for transitioning part-time nursing staff to full-time positions, for energy rebates and first home buyers.
"People are struggling, and these cost-of-living measures are desperately needed.
"There is still a lot of detail to come, and we will be asking the state government to outline clearly where road funding will go, how housing funding will be allocated, and how health funding will make a practical difference in regional areas."
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