The general consensus by Eurobodalla residents around yesterday’s budget announcements was that it was disappointing.
Knowing that 30% of the sale of the NSW poles and wires had been earmarked for regional NSW growth it was expected that the shortfalls to date in that distribution might have bought a much needed injection of funding that would see true economic development for the region.
Instead the budget offered the South East very much of anything other than to see most of the announcements that have been made in the months leading “rubber stamped”.
Andrew Constance announced the key local highlights in the 2018-19 budget to include:
$1.5 Billion Princes Highway upgrades to increase safety and improve travel times however this money is directed to the Sholhaven to be spent on roads from Nowra to Batemans Bay with most of it going to the Albion Park Rail bypass and Berry to Bomaderry upgrade.
All up, of the $1.5b for the South East $10 million will be $10 million will be spent on resurfacing the highway between Tomerong and Batemans Bay and installing a roundabout, roadside barriers, alignment upgrades, improved lighting and audio-tactile line markings. The $155 million is earmarked for the Nowra Bridge replacement, $258 Million committed towards Batemans Bay and Nelligen Bridge replacements, $450 million for the Berry to Bomaderry upgrade and $630 million going to the Albion Park Rail bypass.
In the electorate of BEGA, other than the previously announced bridge replacements which are NOT new bridges but basic infrastructure replacement there is NO commitment of any funds to the Princes Highway. A recent visit to the South East saw the announcement of funding for the Batemans Bay Performing Arts and Indoor Aquatic Centre and Twyford Hall Theatre however both of these "announcements" were simply allocations of grant monies that come available via State bodies and are judged on application and merit.
The other budget announcements for $1.62 million for local community projects such as, Mossy Point and South Durras walkways and playgrounds at Mogareeka, Bemboka, Wyndham, Cobargo, local halls, showground upgrades, a fantastic platform and accessible change facility at Batehaven, upgraded amenities at Tilba and a revitalisation of Bandara Children’s Services are all part an parcel of existing recurring grant funds accessible to the community by application.
So too is the allocation of $59.9 million to be shared by Bega and Eurobodalla Councils for local road infrastructure upgrade and maintenance of those roads identified as Regional Roads (such as Beach Road in Batemans Bay) and the responsibility of the State Government
Further south in Bega shire the following were announced.
$8.5 Million committed to build the new Bega TAFE campus.
$8 Million Light to Light walking track through Ben Boyd National Park.
$650,000 to finalise construction of the new Eden Fire Station.
$1.5m this financial year for the wave attenuator/safe harbour at Eden.
In a post-budget media release the NSW Local Government Association Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Linda Scott said “The so-called ‘people’s budget’ is actually anything but,”
In their statement they state that the 2018/19 NSW State Budget swaps funding critical to local infrastructure and services for a grab-bag of short-term sweeteners that will be forgotten long before election day 2019.
“The Government thinks a $100 voucher for after-school art classes means families won’t notice if public library hours are cut, their local roads deteriorate further, and their parks and playgrounds go downhill through a lack of available funding.
“A $150 ‘baby bundle’ is great, but it is far less important than the local infrastructure and services that will genuinely improve liveability for new parents, and for communities across NSW.”
Clr Scott said the 2018/19 State Budget included a $25.2 million cut to the grants and subsidies that enable local government to provide local infrastructure and services.
“Funding to public libraries has been slashed by 18 per cent,” she said.
“Public libraries in NSW already receive the lowest per capita support of all Australian states.
“This NSW State Budget sees library funding plummeting to record low levels.
“NSW is at the bottom of the leagues table in terms of pensioner rate rebates, which are fully funded by State Governments everywhere but NSW.
“In a State that boasts a $3.9 billion surplus, local government is disappointed the State Government has chosen to ignore community resources while splashing cash around on stadium rebuilds,” she said.
Clr Scott said the Government had ignored the recycling crisis brought about by China’s National Sword policy, and had also missed the opportunity to make real inroads into the road maintenance backlog.
“The Budget offers $315 million to improve road safety outcomes on NSW roads, including a significant increase in funding under the Road Safety Plan targeting regional areas,” she said.
“The funding allocations for council-maintained local roads, which make up 90 per cent of the State’s road network, remain the same, with no more than minor CPI-style increases.
“Given the other cuts councils are being asked to absorb, it’s unlikely NSW will be reducing its road maintenance backlog under this state government.”
As previously announced, the Budget provides $31 million over 10 years for low interest loans to councils to invest in infrastructure to address housing affordability.
“While small low interest loans for councils are welcome, an annual allocation of $3.1 million is unlikely to have any material impact on housing affordability,” Clr Scott said.
“There’s a constant theme here, and that’s a steady stream of ‘smoke-and-mirrors’ announcements that win the Government a quick headline but do very little to genuinely improve the quality of life in this State.”
The South East is a little sad at discovering nothing in the budget for the Princes Highway in the Bega electorate. While bridges are good there hasn't been a fatality on either the Batemans Bay Bridge or Nelligen Bridge in over 60 years