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Byron Shire
July 20, 2024

Housing, water, and fire ants: Regional Cities NSW welcomes NSW budget billions

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The view of Mt Chincogan from the path up. Photo Ruby Jeffery.

Regional Cities New South Wales (RCNSW) welcomed last week’s second state budget from Labor NSW since taking over from the coalition in 2023.

Key initiatives addressing regional housing, road and rail connectivity, digital connectivity and water security were funded in the budget, RCNSW said.

The organisation listed several regional specific investments it was pleased to see included, with RCNSW Chair and Dubbo Regional Mayor Mathew Dickerson quoted in a statement saying the government had listened to issues raised by members thanks to annual advocacy efforts.

‘Regional cities are growing at a rapid rate,’ Cr Dickerson said, ‘investment that will support this growth is fundamental to the success of our cities and the regions that surround them’.

Biosecurity, water and housing budget winners for regions

DE Williams Dam supplies water to Nimbin. Photo supplied.

Many of the state budget announcements last week were for the whole state or regional NSW in general, with details as to disbursement yet to come.

Aside from statewide health, education and infrastructure announcements and reannouncements, significant funding was introduced for housing and the environment, including biosecurity, water security and energy.

$5.1 billion was promised to build 8,400 social homes across NSW and $253.7 million to ‘bolster the state’s planning system to improve housing supply across NSW, including in regional areas’.

Almost a billion dollars was set aside for biosecurity measures, including more than $55 million for the eradication of red imported fire ants; more than $36 million to increase the resilience and capacity of beekeepers; $13 million for the state’s Feral Pig and Pest Management Control program; and more than $6 million to fight White Spot disease.

The state’s Safe and Secure Water Program was allocated $307.2 million to improve water security for regional communities, industries and the environment.

Returning to housing, $200.1 million was allocated for increasing key health worker accommodation across rural and regional NSW including in Tweed Heads and Lismore.

The Housing Infrastructure Fund is to receive another $85.0 million aimed at supporting local government to deliver new homes including those already announced in Tweed Heads and Wagga Wagga.

Meanwhile, Labor’s new Rental Commissioner is to receive $8.4 million for frontline rental inspectors and engagement officers to help enforce housing standards.

Social housing energy transition support

Social housing like these units in Lismore could be eligible for energy support in the latest NSW budget. Photo supplied

When announcing budget measures for the environment, the government focused mainly on energy in connection to costs of living and the transition to renewable sources, as well as planning investment to support housing development.

The Energy Security Corporation was announced earlier this year, something the government says will help fast-track private sector investments in clean energy projects.

The new Energy Security Corporation is to be seeded with a billion-dollar investment, which comes on top of $3.1 billion for the state’s Renewable Energy Zones.

$87.5 million is allocated over the next four years for energy saving upgrades to social housing properties.

The government said nearly $40 million was to be spent over the next seven years on speeding up biodiversity assessments for crucial renewable energy and housing projects.

$43 million for waste and recycling innovation

Penny Sharpe is the NSW Minister for Environment and Heritage. Photo supplied.

Meanwhile, $2.4 billion was allocated for the Environment and Heritage Portfolios specifically.

Investments included more than $75 million for national parks and more than $87 million in grants for environmental restoration and rehabilitation, education, research and waste activities.

Perhaps one of the more innovative environmental funding announcements was $43 million for the Environment Protection Authority to get change happening in the state’s waste and recycling industry.

The government said the money was to be distributed via grants for projects that recycle plastics and organics and to support other strategic waste infrastructure initiatives.

Teacher incentives, holiday programs to continue

Artists impression of the future Lennox Head Public School.

Other significant funding announcements, such as $50 million for the Regional Development Trust, creating total investment in the trust to $400 million, added to more general existing pools.

RCNSW said more than $200 million was promised for ‘enhancing digital connectivity for rural, regional and remote communities’.

The Fixing Country Rail Program is to receive $66.2 million to improve movement of freight and increase reliability of the regional rail network on top of $1.2 billion announced for a new rail fleet across the state.

Incentives for teachers to move to regional NSW were budgeted to continue, including a sign on bonus of up to $20,000, and an $8,000 relocation support package.

The government said its award-winning Holiday Break program for young people would continue with $4 million in funding.

Three million dollars was allocated to support the work of regional and community newspapers, with details yet to come.

RCNSW to continue lobbying

While RCNSW described several of the budget items as ‘highlights for regional cities’, Cr Dickerson said the group would continue to advocate as the job was ‘not yet done’.

‘Regional cities really are the best place to live and work as we see people voting with their feet and leaving Sydney in droves,’ Cr Dickerson said.

‘Getting investment right in our cities is the best thing for the mighty state of NSW,’ he said.

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