Hit and miss for Hunter in State Budget

19th June 2018

Source: Newcastle Herald | By: Michael Parris | Posted: June 19, 2018

The NSW government has announced a state budget light on new major infrastructure for Newcastle but with a nod towards several key Hunter road projects.

The Lower Hunter’s Labor politicians reacted angrily to the lack of major funding announcements, arguing the government was largely ignoring the region while lavishing money on Sydney.

“It’s a very disappointing budget based on what this government said it would deliver,” Newcastle Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp said after treasurer Dominic Perrottet’s budget speech to parliament on Tuesday.

“They’ve recycled the light rail funding for the fifth year in a row.”

The budget papers also redefined Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Wollongong as metropolitan areas, raising questions over whether the cities would be eligible for regional funding programs.

As reported in Tuesday's Newcastle Herald, the budget allocates another $23.5 million to start building the new $470 million Maitland Hospital, $110 million to complete the Newcastle light-rail line and $8.3 million towards a $70 million project to improve Nelson Bay Road.

Other roads spending includes $16.3 million to continue improving the intersection of the M1 motorway and Weakleys Drive; another $4.3 million to plan extensions of the M1 motorway to Raymond Terrace; and $14.5 million for planning and pre-construction of the Newcastle inner-city bypass extension from Rankin Park to Jesmond.

Further up the valley, there is $38 million to continue work on the Scone bypass and $5.7 million to plan bypasses at Singleton and Muswellbrook.

The government also says it will spend $105.3 million, half the project cost, in the coming financial year to build an extra 330 maximum-security beds at Cessnock Correctional Centre.

The budget includes $7.1 million over four years for a coastal walk at Tomaree and $6.3 million for a war-plane tourist centre at Scone Regional Airport.

But many of the big-ticket and less expensive items on the wish lists of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie politicians have been overlooked.

The budget includes no new money for the Lake Macquarie Transport Interchange at Glendale, described on Monday by Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery as the No.1 infrastructure priority in the region.

Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison and Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper had hoped for upgrades to major arterial routes such as Main Road and Hillsborough Road, but neither of these attracted funding.

Also missing are a new regional art gallery in Newcastle and a ferry terminal at Wickham, both priorities for Newcastle City Council and Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp.

Newcastle might have missed out on a new ferry wharf, but the government has found $32 million to spend on two at Botany Bay as part of a plan to commemorate the first meeting of Europeans and Aborigines with a museum and visitor centre inside federal treasurer Scott Morrison’s Cook electorate. 

“This government is willing to put hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions into Sydney, yet the second largest city in the state seems to get put at the bottom of the priority list, evne comparing it to other regional cities in the last month that have got enormous amounts of funding,” Mr Crakanthorp said.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in Newcastle last month that her government was committed to extending the 2.7km light-rail line into the suburbs, but the budget includes no money for planning that expansion.

The Herald reported on Tuesday morning that the government would spend $6 million investigating faster trains from Newcastle to Sydney to cut the journey from three hours to two.

It will also spend $14 million on planning for a new Lower Hunter freight corridor from Fassifern to Hexham, a key infrastructure project which could help alleviate traffic congestion at the Adamstown railway gates.

Parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said the funding would help continue assessing the project’s feasibility but did not amount to a commitment to proceed with it. 

At Williamtown, the government will spend $800,000 to complete a $1 million IT system for tracking per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination from the RAAF base.

The government announced a new $13.5 million police station for Cessnock last week, and 2018-19 spending for this project is bundled in with $5.9 million for multi-purpose stations across the state.

As reported on Tuesday morning, the government will provide $2.77 million to upgrade Hunter Street TAFE and $1.4 million for a customer service and industry development centre at Tighes Hill TAFE.

The budget also includes unspecified funds for upgrades to public primary schools at Newcastle East, Nulkaba, Bolwarra, Rutherford, Speers Point and Wangi Wangi as well as Belmont High, Hunter School of Performing Arts and Callaghan College's Jesmond campus. It will also spend $9.28 million on its Hunter Sports High redevelopment.

The government said last week that it would build a new school precinct in Newcastle, and this project is bundled with 21 others in a planning allocation of $418,000.

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