Tue. Dec 5th, 2023

It’s a mixed bag of promises broken and surprise boosts in today’s NSW Budget, with priorities and cash significantly refocused on Western Sydney at the expense of almost everything west of the dividing range.

In his first budget, NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said the budget signals the beginning of a new age of public investment.

“This Budget treats our schools and hospitals, our railways and roads, as assets to revitalise; not liabilities to neglect,” he said.

Specific announcements for regional NSW include 500 new paramedics for regional and rural New South Wales, and a $350m regional trust fund a $250 million Working Regions Fund to replace the various regional grant programs under the Coalition.

The slashed regional funding has allowed the city-centric government to spend up big in Western Sydney, which has scored:

  • $3.5 billion over four years on 24 new and 51 upgraded primary and high schools,
  • $3 billion for new and upgraded hospitals,
  • $2.4 billion for roads upgrades
  • $303 million for a Western Sydney Rapid Bus Network to the future Western Sydney International Airport, and
  • $14.5 million on teaching kids in Western Sydney to play soccer.

The New England was noticeably left out of many announcements about hospitals and schools in regional areas. While the funding for Moree and Glen Innes hospitals and the Glen Innes Ambulance station has been maintained, Gunnedah’s hospital plans have taken a hit with the removal of planned renal and chemo services. Tamworth is not getting its much needed new school, but $2.5 million has been committed to the Early Childhood Education Centre at Gunnedah.

“Unfortunately, this budget falls short of meeting our expectation, and we are no clearer to a final decision on the future of the Gunnedah Hospital,” Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson said.

“The updated plans for the Gunnedah Hospital redevelopment simply do not meet community expectation, and I have been working hard since the release of those plans to convince the government to allocate further funding to the project,” Mr Anderson said.

“The original master plan for the hospital redevelopment is the design the community was consulted on throughout the process, and it is the design the community expects to be delivered.”

“Another major blow from the Labor Government is that there is no commitment for a new school in Tamworth, which we know we will need within the next decade. Our schools are bursting at the seams and the lack of funding to plan for a new school is bitterly disappointing.” 

The only significant winner of the budget in the region is the Moree Special Activation Precinct. At one point threatened with cancellation, the Moree SAP budget has increased by an additional $30.8 million, bringing the total committed to the extensive growth project to $224.8 million. A smaller but very welcome win is that the government will provide $4.2 million to make Tenterfield a mountain bike destination town.

“I’m really pleased, and more than a little relieved, to see the hard work pay off and these key projects avoid being cut or axed altogether and $30.8 million additional funding for the Moree SAP – this is really good news for our region,” Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall said.

“By working together and hard as a region to put partisan politics to the side and focus on the merits of our communities and our projects, we have managed to convince Ministers of our worth and save the furniture in the Northern Tablelands, while others have suffered.”

“The government has really slashed and burned, we may have saved the furniture here, but the bigger picture is pretty bleak.” 

“This Budget confirms the Regional Seniors Travel Card has been cut and supports to families like the Active Kids Rebate, the Creative Kids Rebate and the First Lap Voucher have all been scaled back.”

“It also cancels the vital Stronger Country Communities Fund, Resources for the Regions Program and all the regional specific sport, cultural and community infrastructure funding programs.”

“I believe these a very short-sighted decisions that will only serve to widen the gap between city and country in the State and I think the government will come to regret this in the long run.”

Some of the other specific programs in the New England that are confirmed in the budget papers include:

  • $6 million for water security in Tamworth
  • $5.6 million for the Gunnedah Koala Sanctuary
  • $1.3 million for Centacare’s Keep on Track program
  • $2.5 million for an early childhood education centre at Gunnedah TAFE
  • $26.2 million for new and upgraded homes for Aboriginal Housing Organisation
  • $2.3 million for the Chickpea Breeding Program
  • Continuation of planning for the $40 million Goonoo Goonoo Road project
  • $195.1 million for the Heavy Duty Pavement Program to deliver new pavement, intersection improvements, widening of road shoulders and the provision of five additional overtaking lanes between Narrabri and Moree (NSW and Australian Governments funded)
  • $892,000 for upgrades to Moree Artesian Pools
  • $888,685 for new musical studios at the Music Education Culture Community Armidale
  • $5 million for the Reconnecting Watercourse Country Program in the Gwydir
  • $227 million joint State and Federal funding to rehabilitate Armidale Kempsey Road
  • $4.19 million for new and improved Aboriginal social housing
  • $2.9 million for new and improved non-Aborignal social housing
  • $28.7 million for the region’s local councils to undertake emergency road repairs
  • $9 million for upgrades on Thunderbolts Way between Uralla and Bundarra
  • $1.97 million for Bingara Road
  • $9.5 million for IB Bore Road sealing at North Star
  • $14.5 million for ongoing improvements to Waterfall Way
  • $6.12 million Boilerhouse Discovery Space at Armidale

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