Although she was thrilled to receive funding for the electorate’s new hospital, Maitland state MP Jenny Aitchison believes more financial assistance should have been directed towards roads and schools.
According to the local member, the 2021/22 NSW Budget failed to meet the infrastructure needs for the fastest growing community in the state outside of Sydney.
The Maitland Hospital was one of a number of “big ticket” Hunter projects to benefit from Tuesday’s announcement, with the latest cash splash bringing the total value of the development to $500 million.
However, roads and education are not keeping pace with the city’s population boom, according to Ms Aitchison.
“I’m pleased the NSW Government finally made a down payment with $5 million (part of a $8.1 million package) funding for the intersection of Raymond Terrace Road and Government Road in Thornton,” she said.
“But, yesterday’s announcement was well short of the $51 million that Maitland City Council requested to adequately fund the much-needed works at Thornton.
“It does nothing to address the duplication of the Thornton Rail Bridge, which the government has not completed in over a decade, and which is a major impediment to addressing congestion in the area.”
Ms Aitchison added “the diabolical disaster at the Maitland railway station roundabout will continue with no further funds committed in this budget, despite continuing traffic issues”.
“The Liberals and Nationals have tried to claim credit for an $8.5 million package at Testers Hollow, despite only contributing $2 million to the budget,” she said.
“They are only spending $5.2 million this year, meaning it will be at least another 12 months before the project is completed.”
Ms Aitchison said it was also appalling that after a decade in government, they had failed to build one new school in Maitland, and even the upgrade announcements in the budget were old projects, some dating back to 2015.
“We desperately need new investments in our school infrastructure,” she stated.
“While Labor has taken a commitment to build a new primary and high school to the last two state elections, the Liberals and Nationals have failed to build one new school in 10 years.
“There were zero dollars in the budget for Gillieston Public School, which is in desperate need of an upgrade, with only two permanent classrooms, and still not even being connected to town sewerage services.
“Until recent times, there was still a dirt floor in the boys’ toilets and there are ongoing accessibility issues.
“It’s simply not acceptable for students in the 21st Century.
“The Rutherford Public School funding is the money Labor shamed them into spending to complete the library in 2020, after the NSW Government tried to say the upgrade was complete.
“It was clear to everyone that there was a void where the new library and its services were supposed to be.
“The state government was ready to cut the ribbon and declare the school build a success, until the Labor Deputy Leader and Shadow Minister for Education Prue Car and I called on them to complete the works.
“The lack of vision and planning by the Berejiklian government has forced students to learn in overcrowded and dilapidated classrooms, and pupils are being forced into two-storey schools or face losing more precious playground space to deal with the growing population.”
Ms Aitchison said Maitland required more support through the Resources for Regions program, too, with less than $1.3 million committed in the 2021/22 Budget.
“Locals don’t have time to enjoy long lunches in the Sydney CBD,” she explained.
“They are busy working their guts out in the mines and working in small businesses that support the mining sector.
“So, we deserve our fair share of money from the royalties.
“The message from this budget is clear – if you live in Sydney, life is just one long lunch Friday, funded by people in the regions, who can’t get to work on congested roads, after they drop their kids off to dilapidated schools the government refuses to bring into the 21st Century.
“The local Liberal councillors and the Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter should hang their heads in shame and start standing up to their mates for our community.”