With the state budget just hours away, Greens Member for Ballina, Tamara Smith has called on the coalition government to keep the many promises it made to the Ballina electors in during the March state election campaign.
Ms Smith said the government had made ‘a number of significant promises to the electorate of Ballina for important community services and infrastructure’.
She is calling on them to support those promises despite the National Party losing the seat.
‘I supported many of the commitments made by the government during the campaign,’ Ms Smith said.
Big ticket items
Coalition promises included more than $45 million in the electorate, not including the Byron Central Hospital. Of that, some $40 million was earmarked to be spent on a controversial new mega high school to replace Ballina’s two existing high school campuses.
And while Ms Smith is not convinced about the concept, she’s keen to see the money remains earmarked for education in the electorate.
‘The $40million commitment to Ballina High Schools needs to be based on genuine community consultation about what is best for the Ballina community, existing schools and future opportunities for students in Ballina, Ms Smith said.
She added that ‘funding to finish the Byron Central Hospital is needed and there is strong community support for a funding commitment to deliver upgrades to the Emergency Room and for a new operating theatre at Ballina Hospital.’
Government investment in local recycling centres and in particular support for a green bin scheme for Byron Shire naturally caught Ms Smith’s green eye.
‘This electorate is internationally known for its clean and green image and we should be the leaders in recycling and waste management. The new centres will help reduce illegal dumping and ensure we are reducing litter entering our waterways and the ocean,’ she said.
But she also noted that the $765,000 promise represented 0.01 per cent of the $93m of annual funding available under the state’s ‘Waste Less, Recycle More’ initiative.
‘I look forward to working with councils in the area and the local community to ensure we are attracting our fair share of state funding into the future. I also look forward to seeing the planned move to a container deposit scheme by 2017 reflected in this year’s budget, she said.
Ms Smith also included some items from her own election campaign, such as improving the public transport network across the region, the full funding of the long-awaited Ballina Sports Centre and the cancellation of CSG licences without compensation.
She also called for $5.5 million to go into ‘active’ transport initiatives, $850,000 to complete the construction of the Ballina Marine Rescue tower, $25 million to build the Ballina Sports Centre, $8 million for Ballina Hospital upgrades as well as nearly $88 million to fund the completion of Byron Central Hospital.
‘While there is a regional transport plan, it lacks a comprehensive public transport strategy,’ she said.
‘There is also a need for more investment in active transport infrastructure including cycle ways and footpaths.
‘There is a desperate need for a dedicated indoor sports facility in Ballina,’ Ms Smith said.
‘The Ballina Sports Centre has the strong backing of the community and local council and now it is time for the Government to get behind this important project with funding.’
On the subject of CSG she said that while the government should be able to cancel coal seam gas licences without compensation if plans to pursue a buy-back of PEL445 and provide compensation to Metgasco, ‘it needs to ensure there is sufficient funding allocated to do that’.
‘The community didn’t ask for this industry and it shouldn’t have to pay to tell them to leave the northern rivers,’ Ms Smith said.