Singleton mayor Sue Moore has joined the chorus of voices taking aim at the NSW Government for abolishing the Resources for Regions program.
Treasurer Daniel Mookhey unveiled his inaugural NSW State Budget on Tuesday 19 September, however the big sticking point – especially for regional communities in the Hunter – was the eradication of the highly-successful mining-funded initiative.
Royalties are forecast to deliver Premier Chris Minns and his Labor cohorts $13.2 billion over the next four years, including $2.7 billion from higher rates to be introduced from 1 July 2024.
But, the government’s decision to slash Resources for Regions from its 2023/24 financial plan will impact the LGAs of Cessnock, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Muswellbrook, Singleton, Upper Hunter and Newcastle.
And, the move has drawn the ire of Cr Moore, Upper Hunter MP Dave Layzell and the NSW Minerals Council.
Currently, Singleton and Muswellbrook account for a combined total of 43% of NSW’s coal mining output, which in 2021 amounted to more than $18 billion of the state’s mining output total of almost $40 billion (Remplan Economic Output Estimates 2021 Release 3).
“I’m devastated,” Cr Moore said.
“Close to $26 million was injected into the Singleton LGA through rounds seven, eight and nine.
“We’ve worked closely with the NSW Government in recent years to deliver positive reform to the program, which ensures communities that are directly affected by mining activities receive their fair share of the royalties generated from their region.
“To see it omitted from the budget is ‘extremely disappointing’.
“Resources for Regions has proved to be a successful mechanism to deliver a fair return to our community for the daily and unavoidable impacts of mining.
“Issues including air quality, traffic congestion, visual impairment and reputation are matters that affect us so much more, as a result of being where the mining activity actually occurs.
“Considering the significant amount of royalties generated from our region and given the government will raise coal royalties by an estimated $2.7 billion over the next four years, it’s only fair that communities like Singleton, who are so affected by this industry, be adequately compensated.”
Through its Advocacy Agenda, Singleton Council proactively lobbied for changes to Resources for Region, which included the removal of co-contribution and benefit costs ratios, a fixed percentage of the total pool for mining-affected communities based on the level of actual mining activity occurring within an area, and the introduction of programs alongside infrastructure projects that provided opportunities for employment and skills training for job seekers, assistance for small businesses and community support.
Cr Moore said she was hopeful the creation of the new $350 million Regional Development Trust Fund, to support communities in rural and regional NSW, would deliver much-needed funding for Singleton.
“As a mining community, it’s important that state government funding flows back into Singleton as an acknowledgement of the integral role we play in the continued prosperity of NSW,” she explained.
“It puts us on the path to the economic and social evolution for generations to come, building our region for a time when mining may be a smaller component of our economic output.
“We’ll continue to work with the NSW Government to identify funding opportunities to improve the liveability, amenity and infrastructure of the Singleton community.”
While happy to celebrate the local infrastructure funding wins – such as the Singleton Bypass ($33 million of the $700 million total cost to start pre-construction), Muswellbrook Bypass ($12 million of the $336 million total cost for planning and early work), Tocal College, Paterson ($27.2 million for targeted workforce development training), Hunter Flood Mitigation Scheme ($20 million of $47.5 million total cost for repairs and rebuilds) and Muswellbrook Hospital Stage 3 Redevelopment ($10 million of the $45 million total cost) – Mr Layzell was upset with the reduction of some major programs.
“The NSW Nationals and Liberals’ Regional Growth Fund, which included Resources for Regions, Stronger Country Communities and the Regional Events Acceleration Fund, is being redirected to fund other government priorities and election commitments,” he said.
“But, Resources for Regions was about returning the coal royalties back to those regions that are most impacted by mining.
“This has happened at a time when the Minns government has increased the tax on coal royalties by $2.6 billion.
“The Upper Hunter electorate is the industrial powerhouse of the NSW economy.
“So, these communities deserve to be treated with respect because for every dollar extracted from coal companies will be a dollar less for local community programs.”
NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee agreed with the sentiments of Cr Moore and Mr Layzell, admitting he was equally disappointed.
“The government’s decision will directly affect the quality of life of all residents living in the 26 LGAs (Local Government Areas) previously eligible for program funding,” he said.
“In the Hunter, alone, that includes Cessnock City, Lake Macquarie City, Maitland City, Muswellbrook Shire, Singleton and Upper Hunter Shire councils, along with City of Newcastle.
“Resources for Regions delivered funding worth hundreds of millions over many years to local organisations representing mining communities, helping to provide improved infrastructure and services.
“Where is that money coming from now?”
For more NSW State Budget stories:
- NSW State Budget: Who wins, who loses?
- NSW State Budget: ‘Mixed reaction’ in Hunter region
- NSW State Budget: Business Hunter welcomes key priorities for region
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