Newcastle state MP Tim Crakanthorp admits he’s not shocked a review has lambasted the NSW Government’s dealings with the city.
The NSW Upper House Inquiry into the state’s handling of grant programs declared the treatment of Newcastle – under this administration – to be “unacceptable”, as part of 13 findings and 15 recommendations handed down by the committee this week.
The investigation into the integrity, efficacy and value for money of NSW Government grants was established last year to examine the range of initiatives available and the manner in which they were determined.
“Among other rorts, the inquiry unveiled the extreme pork-barrelling, which saw 95% of the Stronger Communities Fund allocated to seats held or targeted by the Liberals or Nationals at the 2019 election,” Mr Crakanthorp said.
“It also delved into the inconsistent classification of Newcastle in grant eligibility, with the city frequently excluded from both metropolitan and regional funding.”
Off the back of his submission to the inquiry last year, Mr Crakanthorp appeared before the committee to highlight his electorate’s inconsistencies and exclusions from programs.
Until that time, Newcastle had been omitted from all major sports and arts funds.
The committee found in favour of Mr Crakanthorp’s argument, with Finding 13 stating:
“That it is unacceptable for large regional cities, such as Wollongong and Newcastle, to be excluded when complementary grants programs are designed for both metropolitan and regional areas, such as the Greater Sydney Sports Facility Fund and Regional Sports Infrastructure Fund.”
Mr Crakanthorp also advised the inquiry that the best way forward would be to develop a clear and consistent definition for metropolitan and regional status.
He supported the exploration of a third category to bridge the gap between Sydney and regional communities, too.
This was reflected in Recommendation 13 from the committee:
“That the NSW Government review and standardise eligibility classifications across grant programs, including investigating whether to include a third category of ‘gateway city’ in its classification of regions.”
Mr Crakanthorp said he never had any doubt the committee would agree that Newcastle had been treated deplorably.
“Newcastle has been at the mercy of this government’s shifting goalposts for some time,” he stated.
“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.”
Mr Crakanthorp successfully lobbied in 2020 for Newcastle’s inclusion into the state’s major sports infrastructure program, with the city now eligible for the Greater Cities Sport Facility Fund.