The state budget has been announced but will Highlanders be pleased with what’s on offer?.
Highlights of the budget for the Wingecarribee Shire include:
- $9.87 million for continued works on the Southern Highlands Police Station with estimated costs of $14.9 million
- $5 million to continue major works on Bowral Hospital with an estimated total cost of $50 million
- $2.5 million in 2017/18 for heavy duty pavement on the Hume Highway (state and federally funded). Yet to be determined where on the Hume Highway.
While the Highlands has not received much direct funding through the budget, there are many state wide programs and initiatives which could benefit the region.
Those who have campaigned for a premier arts facility in the Highlands will be pleased with the $100 million announced in the budget for a Regional Cultural Fund.
Both Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell and Goulburn MP Pru Goward praised the latest budget.
“In my seven budgets and 20 years following politics, this is the best state budget I’ve ever seen,” Mr Rowell said.
“I don’t know if any government could spend this much money on infrastructure in a lifetime.”
While funding has not been allocated for any new schools or upgrades to existing schools in the Highlands, there are some wins for the community in the education sector.
Over four years $46 million of funding has been allocated for the Connecting Country Schools program which aims to boost wireless access and internet capacity for regional schools.
Mr Rowell said Bowral Public School had already submitted an application for funding through this program.
With an increase of meningococcal recently. $4.5 million has been allocated for students in Years 11 and 12 to be vaccinated.
Council will also hopefully benefit from the budget with $307,000 allocated to improve roads in the shire.
Parents will be able to apply for a $100 rebate for each school aged child every year as part of the Active Kids Rebate which can be put towards sporting club registrations or the cost of lessons.
Mr Rowell said council would receive money for road works and would also receive $416 000 for bridge assessment.
$200 million has been allocated state-wide for the Bridges for the Bush program.
Small businesses and farmers will also benefit from tax cuts worth $330 million over four years.
From January next year businesses with a turnover of less than $2 million a year will be exempt from paying duties on insurance for work vehicles, professional indemnity and public liability.
Mr Rowell said the Highlands would also benefit from the $1 billion Regional Growth fund which would support road, rail and energy infrastructure as well as sporting and cultural facilities.
Ms Goward said the budget’s financial commitment to the towns and communities of the Goulburn electorate would enable the region to take advantage of growth opportunities in NSW.
“I am thrilled we have delivered a Budget which provides record investments with a strong focus on regional growth centres like the Goulburn Electorate,” she said.
“All this has been made possible after six years of strong expenses discipline and the recycling of assets.
“We have recycled assets into new assets- and as a result are the only state to be approaching a net worth of a quarter of a trillion dollars.”
Funding across regional NSW which could benefit the Highlands includes:
- A share in the $500 million boost for regional waster infrastructure
- Stamp duty concessions for first home buyers
- A share in $1 billion funding for regional growth
- A share in $208 million for transport projects in regional NSW
- $500 million for the Fixing Country Roads program to improve regional roads managed by local governments
- $25 million in 2017/18 to begin the Regional Fleet program to replace the XPT diesel fleet. Mr Rowell said he did not yet know when these new carriages would roll out but it would result in greater reliability on the Southern Highlands line.
- $6 million over four years for the Young Farmer Program to help young farmers improve long-term financial resilience and build capacity and capability
- $15 million over four years for the AgSkills strategy to support the NSW agriculture sector to attract and retain workers.
- $75 million for the continuation of concessional loans under the Farm Innovation Fund to assist farmers to prepare their business for future drought.
- $35 million in 2017/18 to manage pest animals and weed populations to reduce their impacts on biodiversity, cultural heritage and other values within the state’s national park system and on park neighbours.
- $40 million in 2017/18 to manage fire risk in national parks and reserves
- $100 million over four years in palliative care services across NSW including $17.4 million in the 2017/18 budget.
- A share in $2.9 million through the South West Community Transport program.
- A share in $23.9 million for the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme
- First home buyers exemptions on Stamp Duty. “We’re trying to get first home buyers into the market,” Jai Rowell said.
- Funding for another 60,000 people to become a part of the NDIS in the next financial year
- Share of $1 million for a NSW volunteer strategy
- Funding for homeless initiatives. “I think it’s really good and it’s something really dear to my heart,” Jai Rowell said.
- $61 million to support tourism operators.
- $1 billion over four years for energy rebates.
- 2,500 defibrillator machines to sporting clubs across the state.
- An additional $217 million for the Start Strong program and funding to help children attend 600 hours of preschool before the go to primary school. There will also be funding for new child care facilities across the state.
- $7.2 billion for the next stage of WestConnex
The NSW Budget 2017-18 shows NSW is expected to record a surplus of $4.5 billion in 2016-17, with a surplus of $2.7 billion forecast for 2017-18 and average surpluses of $2.0 billion forecast over the four years to 2020-21.