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NSW State Budget: ‘Mixed reaction’ in Hunter region

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Treasurer Daniel Mookhey’s inaugural NSW State Budget has received a mixed reaction in the Hunter region.

While local politicians unsurprisingly backed the government’s financial plan, released on Tuesday 19 September, the NSW Minerals Council believes regional mining communities, such as Muswellbrook and Singleton, will be among the hardest hit.

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. 

“This is the single biggest revenue decision taken by the NSW Government, confirming the important role mining is playing in repairing the budget position,” NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said.

“The billions delivered in royalties are only possible due to the contribution of the hard-working people in the state’s regional areas.

“Without our workers, their families and their communities, there would be no mining… and no revenue.

“It’s therefore extremely disappointing that despite the extra billions to be delivered in mining royalties, the budget cuts several key mining-related funding programs.

“They’ll negatively impact those communities and hinder the development of further long-term regional economic opportunities.”

Mr Galilee said the abolition of Resources for Regions was especially disappointing.

“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 stated.

“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.

“The eradication of both the Critical Minerals Activation Program and the Coal Innovation Program will hamper efforts to pursue long-term economic development opportunities, too.

“Mining communities deserve much better than this, including a fair share of the royalty revenue that their hard work delivers.”

Meanwhile, Cessnock MP Clayton Barr admitted roads in the Cessnock and Lake Macquarie LGAs would benefit from almost $6.5 million in funding from the new Regional Emergency Road Repair Fund (RERRF).

“Whether it’s fixing potholes, sealing, resurfacing or rehabilitating sections of road — this initiative will help councils undertake much-needed work to repair their networks,” he said.

“I’m also pleased to see councils can allocate the money to where they believe the community need is greatest.”

Cessnock City is set to receive $2,788,494 and Lake Macquarie City $3,693,285.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison said the funding amount was based on the total kilometres of regional and local roads that each council was responsible for managing.

“The government’s RERRF will deliver $390 million to 95 eligible councils across NSW to upgrade their roads,” the Maitland MP added.

“That new investment will be in the bank accounts of councils later this year.

“So, they can now start planning and preparing for road improvements that will make a big difference to the lives of their residents.”

Minister for the Hunter Yasmin Catley said the government was also investing in the future of the region.

More than 6,000 teachers across the Hunter will receive their biggest pay increase in almost three decades and an additional 1,000 education staff will be made permanent.

Funding for game-changing road projects should get traffic flowing, too.

“Labor’s $86 million regional road upgrade package will benefit people across the region, including residents of Muswellbrook, Singleton, Dungog, Mid-Coast, Maitland, Cessnock, Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie and Upper Hunter LGAs,” Ms Catley said.

“It includes improving the Golden Highway, particularly around Merriwa where the roads are congested, and safety improvements along the Nelson Bay Road between Williamtown and Bobs Farm.

“Further, we’re committed to providing quality and accessible healthcare across the Hunter.

“Investments in local hospitals will help ensure communities can access their essential services now, and when they need them in the future.”

The 2023/24 Budget makes significant progress towards fulfilling several election commitments, including:

  • The new Medowie High School
  • Planning for Huntlee High School
  • Restoring John Hunter Hospital shuttle bus from McDonald Jones Stadium
  • $3 million to Dungog Council
  • $950,000 for a separated cycleway at Islington

$3.6 million for local commitments including:

  • $300,000 to support services for vulnerable residents in Port Stephens
  • $236,000 for new playgrounds across Lake Macquarie
  • $200,000 for youth mental health initiatives and support at Singleton Neighbourhood Centre
  • Up to $174,000 to local council for flood lighting at Blacksmiths Oval
  • $140,000 to Charlestown Caring Group for a new bus
  • $100,000 to Hunter Flood Relief/Cessnock Uniting Church for new homeless facilities
  • $100,000 to Early Links, Ashtonfield to support cooking classes for people with a disability
  • Investments in local Surf Lifesaving Clubs across Swansea and Newcastle

“For too long, the Hunter has had to fight for its fair share of funding,” Ms Catley said.

“This budget prioritises people, services and projects to ensure our great region can thrive now and into the future.

“People are the backbone of the Hunter – from our frontline workers to our teachers and everyone in between.

“They are heroes who deserve recognition, which they’re finally getting under the Minns Labor government.”

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