Government fails to keep regional spending promise

Geoff Helisma

The NSW Government’s Restart NSW Fund Act 2011 calls for 30 per cent of its funding to be spent in regional areas – the October 24-released Auditor General’s report, however, reveals that over the past five years only 19.2 per cent has been spent in the regions.

Further, during the 2016/17 year only “14 per cent of Restart NSW Fund payments were directed to infrastructure projects in rural and regional areas outside metropolitan Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong”, the report states.

Meanwhile, the Labour opposition has jumped on this, distributing a media release titled Regional NSW Is getting dudded by the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government.

Opposition leader Luke Foley claims the Auditor General’s report proves the NSW Government “is failing to live up to its commitments when it comes to the regions”.

“While billions are being squandered in Sydney infrastructure projects, funding for regional NSW is going backwards,” Mr Foley said in a media release.

“There was a clear commitment by the Liberal-National government that 30 per cent of the electricity privatisations would be spent in the regions. It has not. It is failing to honour their commitment.”

At a policy level, Mr Foley said if elected to government his party would use 100 per cent of funds raised, if the NSW Government sells Snowy Hydro to the Commonwealth, to improve regional infrastructure.

“The money would go to areas such as education, health, roads and deliver water and energy security projects,” he said.

Major projects in the Clarence Valley funded in the NSW 2017/18 budget, as noted in the NSW Budget 2017-18, Regional Overview, are the Pacific Highway upgrade ($1.2billion – state and federally funded), new Grafton bridge ($84million), new Sportsmans Creek Bridge ($6.8m), and the new Grafton correctional centre (no budget allocation noted).

Commenting on the overall result for the state’s finances as at June 30, 2017, Auditor-General Margaret Crawford said in a media release: “The report highlights a $5.7billion State budget surplus and continued investment in new infrastructure, in part funded by the long-term leases of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy assets.”

The Report on State Finances October 2017 can be viewed at www.audit.nsw.gov.au.