The Minns Labor Government’s first budget has delivered a brutal blow to the bush with vital programs axed across regional NSW.
NSW Nationals Leader Dugald Saunders slammed the Treasurer for cutting highly successful initiatives like the Regional Seniors Travel Card, and heavily reducing the Active Kids, Creative Kids, and First Lap learn to swim vouchers.
“This budget has broken the hearts of families and communities across regional NSW that have been completely left behind by Chris Minns’ city-centric regime,” Mr Saunders said.
“Labor has unapologetically ripped the rug out from under the regions, inflicting even more pain after a tough few years of fires, floods, and drought.”
The Department of Regional NSW will be wound up over the next three years with capital expenditure reduced from $334 million to just $23 million.
“This decision will diminish the Department’s capital expenditure to just 10 per cent of what it is now, which means around 350 jobs will need to be cut, which is another kick in the guts for regional NSW.
“We decentralised the agency to ensure it was made up of professionals who live and work in the regions to deliver programs like the Stronger Country Communities Fund, our Community Building Partnerships and Resources for Regions, but now we are seeing those positions centralised and the Department scaled back to practically nothing.
“This budget will also see the Rural Assistance Authority, another crucial organisation, slashed by about a third, which is extremely concerning for those facing hardship in the wake of the natural disasters that have devastated so many families and businesses.”
The Government has only committed $298.5m for biosecurity and agriculture programs over the next four years, while The Nationals committed $229 million in just one year, before uplifting that support by $65 million.
“This government is completely clueless when it comes to the impacts that are being felt by our primary industries, and this investment is simply not enough to keep our food and fibre safe.
“Red fire ants are marching down to the border from Queensland, Varroa mite is spiralling out of control in our bees, and Foot and Mouth disease is knocking at our door and there is no certainty being provided for any part of the Ag sector.”
Major regional infrastructure projects, like the raising the wall of Wyangala dam, have been ditched.
“Scrapping this project is a devastating blow to communities that are in desperate need of water security as we head into another drought, especially after the Bureau of Meteorology officially declared El Nino.”
“It is also so important for increasing flood mitigation and some communities along the Lachlan River have been left wondering just how many floods and droughts it will take for the NSW Government to care about their lives and livelihoods after last year’s unprecedented deluge.”
The Resources for Regions program has also been axed off the back of increased mining royalties.
“The government is making about $2.7 billion extra through these royalties but instead of putting that money towards programs and infrastructure to help mining communities, Labor is ripping it out of these towns and taking it into consolidated revenue.”
“Areas like the Hunter Valley and the Central West will be left high and dry by this move and councils will absolutely be feeling the pinch and will be forced to think about increasing their rates.”
When it comes to health and education Labor has recycled a lot of The Nationals’ policies.
The Government is trying to take credit for several regional hospitals including Tweed and Coffs Harbour, as well as the redevelopment of Tumut Hospital.
The same goes for regional schools, with 17 of the 20 projects covered in the $1.4b funding already announced by The Nationals in last year’s budget.