NSW budget gives little to Hunter region, ignores Newcastle, says Labor

NOT HAPPY: Labor state MPs Jodie Harrison, Kate Washington, Yasmin Catley, Tim Crakanthorp, Sonia Hornery and Jenny Aitchison on Tuesday.
NOT HAPPY: Labor state MPs Jodie Harrison, Kate Washington, Yasmin Catley, Tim Crakanthorp, Sonia Hornery and Jenny Aitchison on Tuesday.

HUNTER Labor MPs say the region’s electorates have been ignored in the Berejiklian government’s pre-election budget, with little new funding and other projects either pushed back or lacking completion dates.

Despite Treasurer Dominic Perrottet’s claims of a record infrastructure program of $87 billion over four years, the headline item in the government’s regional breakdown of Hunter commitments was just $23.5 million on the new Maitland hospital, which Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison said was “completely inadequate” for a $470-million project that had basic roadworks done and nothing more.

Labor is also up in arms about a budget presentation that defines the Hunter region as excluding Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. Wollongong was similarly left out of the Illawarra section of a budget “regional overview”.

A government spokesperson said this was because Newcastle and Wollongong had the same “metropolitan” status as Sydney and were therefore not “regional”.

Despite this, Western Sydney – a key area politically for the government – was given its own “regional” presentation.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald justified Newcastle’s metropolitan definition, which he acknowledged as meaning it missed out on “most of the regional funding programs”.

Mr MacDonald justified this, however, by saying it “does not stop us continue funding by other means”. He said it had not stopped the government funding the Newcastle light rail and would not stop it funding other projects through other funding mechanisms, “with the right (business) case”.

Labor MPs Tim Crakanthorp for Newcastle and Jodie Harrison for Charlestown dismissed this argument, saying the government was simply trying to disguise its lack of commitment to the region.

Ms Harrison was incensed that Lake Macquarie was also apparently now defined as metropolitan, saying “there might have been an argument about Newcastle but Lake Macquarie has always been regional!”.

Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said spending commitments had been repeatedly pushed back, with “a roundabout” being the only Port Stephens road duplication works funded for 2018-19.

Swansea MP Yasmin Catley said it was the third consecutive year of “no new projects funded” in the electorate.

Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery said the heavy rain was a reminder the government was refusing to fund improvements to the suburb’s storm water canals, 11 years after the disastrous Pasha Bulker storm flooding.

Deeper reading on the NSW Budget

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