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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

State Budget 2020-21: How the Hunter fared

The Hunter received a mixed bag of offerings in today’s state budget, with the region’s Labor MP’s predictably disappointed with the figures handed down by Treasurer Dominic Perrottet.

Regional hospitals weren’t forgotten, with $220.3 million slated for the new Maitland Hospital, as well as $18 million for its car park.

While happy with the funding, Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison said she’s concerned the budget papers showed it won’t open until June 2023. 

“The government’s own website has been saying it would be open by early 2022,” she said.

“This means the hard working staff at the hospital will be stuck in the old hospital for up to 18 months longer than they were planning to be there.

“It also means patients will have to wait for many of the new services that are to be provided at the new hospital such as day chemotherapy, the cardiac catheterisation lab and the new Psychiatric Emergency Care Centre.”

The John Hunter Health and Innovation Precinct secured $16 million to go towards its $780 million price tag.

The M1 extension to Raymond Terrace and Hexham Straight was allocated $21.7 million while $20 million was set side to continue planning for stage five of the Newcastle Inner City Bypass.

While Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery admitted this was good news, she was disappointed the flooding issues in her electorate were completely ignored, while more than $2 million was put towards the beautification of the Lower Cottage Creek Stormwater channels in the Newcastle CBD.

“The lack of funding for the much needed Wallsend flood mitigation works was a real kick in the guts for locals,” Ms Hornery said.

“For the government to deny the people of the Wallsend electorate a single cent to fix the flooding issue, but spend more than two million dollars on the beautification of stormwater channels in the Newcastle CBD, is mind boggling.

“Instead of fixing a problem that has residents and business owners on edge every time there is a downpour, they are spending money on making a stormwater drain look pretty, just because it runs through the CBD.”

Further transport funding includes:

  • $8.5 million to continue planning for the Muswellbrook and Singleton bypasses on the New England Highway.
  • $6 million to continue the upgrade of Nelson Bay Road.
  • $0.7 million for the upgrade of intersections of the Pacific Highway (City Rd) with Northcott Dr and Kahibah Rd, Highfields.

Police resources and the Lake Macquarie Transport Interchange were also excluded from the budget, however $5.8 million was allocated to deliver new and upgraded quality social and affordable housing for Aboriginal communities in Wallsend, Taree, Woodberry, Toronto and Forster.

“I welcome the money being allocated to new social housing supply but it falls a long way short of fixing the long waiting lists we have in the Wallsend electorate,” Ms Horney said.

“The Treasurer claimed this budget would keep our people safe today and create the jobs we need right now, but I can see nothing that will deliver that for the Wallsend electorate.”

Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said the government had missed the opportunity to stimulate the local economy and deliver jobs in the state’s second-largest city.

“Yet again we’ve seen no funding allocated to the long-announced and stalled Hunter Sports and Entertainment Precinct or Newcastle Education Precinct,” he said.

“There is no new funding for the Lower Hunter Freight Corridor, year after year the same unspent funds are re-announced but the project never progresses.”

The restoration of the Victoria Theatre and the redevelopment of the Newcastle Art Gallery both missed out, though there was the creation of the $100 million Arts Maintenance and Upgrade Fund.

“I will certainly be advocating that Newcastle receives its fair share from the fund for our local cultural infrastructure,” Mr Crakanthorp said.

While no funds were given to fixing schools in the Wallsend electorate, in Maitland, Ashtonfield and Rutherford Public schools were selected to receive major upgrades.

Ms Aitchison is disappointed Gillieston Public School, which isn’t even connected to the local sewerage system, missed out.

“Ashtonfield still has no budget and no completion date, however the Rutherford upgrade is a win for Labor, as we had to fight the government to do the library redevelopments,” she said.

“There is also no commitment for upgrades to the ageing high schools in the area, which have some of the highest numbers of demountables in the Hunter.”

More than $4.5 million was set aside for Water Security for Economic Development in the Upper Hunter, while $4 million will go towards the Fernleigh Awabakal shared pathway.

Cessnock Airport is also getting an upgrade, thanks to $3 million.

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