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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Council welcomes changes to NSW Government grant eligibility

City of Newcastle has joined the chorus of voices welcoming changes to NSW Government grant eligibility.

The Legislative Council Committee recently tabled 15 recommendations as part its first report into the integrity, efficacy and value for money of the organisation’s funding programs.

The inquiry, led by the NSW Upper House, found it was unacceptable for large regional cities such as Newcastle and Wollongong to be excluded when complementary grants initiatives are designed for both metropolitan and regional areas.

It called for the NSW Government to review and standardise eligibility classifications across its programs, too.

The committee also supported investigation into the creation of a third “gateway city” grouping for regions, which would potentially include LGAs (Local Government Areas) such as Newcastle and Wollongong. 

Earlier in the week, Newcastle state MP Tim Crakanthorp admitted he wasn’t shocked by the review’s findings, which criticised the government’s dealings with the City.

“Newcastle has been at the mercy of this government’s shifting goalposts for some time,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“So, it’s no surprise that the committee has recognised the disdain with which we have been treated.

“Time and time again our community has missed out on the whim of this government.

“I very much hope that the light this inquiry has shone on grant programs finally affects change.

“We have never asked for the world; all we have ever wanted is our fair share.”

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes applauded the recommendations, which mirrored a submission made to the inquiry by the City of Newcastle. 

“I welcome the committee’s endorsement that the government both standardise eligibility classifications across grant programs and investigate the implementation of a third category of ‘gateway city’ for Newcastle and Wollongong,” she said.

“We submitted independently verified evidence to the committee that identified government grant funding sources totalling $5.86 billion where City of Newcastle has been deemed ineligible to access funding due to our classification.

“This independent economic analysis found that if Newcastle’s share of these funds was in line with its share of Gross State Product in 2019, the region might have received or be receiving an extra $170.4 million in funds. 

“The committee accepted City of Newcastle’s evidence, finding that ‘it is unacceptable for large regional cities, such as Newcastle, to be excluded’ when complementary grants programs are designed for both metropolitan and regionals areas.”

Cr Nelmes said she hoped City of Newcastle would be much better placed to receive its fair share of funding from NSW Treasury in the future.

“Creating a ‘gateway city’ classification for Newcastle is something council has long been calling for, particularly through the Gateway Cities Alliance we have struck with Wollongong and Geelong,” she added.

“This alliance has been working through ways by which the current and prospective economic and social impact of Australia’s major regional cities can be better leveraged. 

“We’ve found through collaboration and a collective approach to advocating for Gateway Cities, we can better highlight our shared and unique characteristics and strategic assets, which we think can maximise national economic growth, regional resilience and local job creation.

“With Newcastle previously missing out on tens of millions of grant funding annually because of arbitrarily drawn boundaries in Macquarie Street, I’m confident the committee’s recommendations to government will be accepted.”

Further information about the Gateway City Alliance can be found at https://gatewaycitiesalliance.com.au/

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