100,000 Seniors Now Using Digital Seniors Card

Seniors in the region are continuing to embrace digital with more than 100,000 people across the state now taking advantage of the digital Seniors Card.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said while there would always be a non-digital version, it was great to see so many seniors taking advantage of the digital option to access discounts and benefits on dining out, entertainment and travel.

“This milestone shows the seniors of regional and rural areas are confidently using digital products and demonstrates the real impact and benefits these solutions can have in all age groups,” Ms Cooke said.

“The Seniors Card has come a long way since it was first introduced in 1992, it is now the largest program of its kind in Australia.”

“After a successful pilot in March involving 4,000 people, we are currently seeing more than 30,000 people across the state getting their digital Seniors Card each month.

“It is great to see 100,000 people take up the digital option in just a few months.”

For 30 years, it has been helping ease the cost of living for card holders by providing access to discounts and rebates at shops, travel, entertainment, and professional services providers.

“There are more than 6,500 businesses and service providers across NSW with discounts, and I encourage more to follow.”

To find instructions on how to add a digital Seniors or Senior Savers Card to the Service NSW app, or to learn more visit service.nsw.gov.au/campaign/nsw-seniors-card-program.

Record Stocking Season Bolsters Local Fish Populations

The NSW Government’s Narrandera Fisheries Centre has played a vital role in freshwater fish breeding and stocking across the State.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said more than 5.3 million fish have been released in NSW in 2021-22, including a record 1.26 million Murray cod.

“The Murray cod fingerlings are part of the State’s largest-ever breeding program, aimed at sustaining populations in NSW lakes and rivers following years of drought,” Ms Cooke said.

“In addition to Murray cod, there are also golden perch, silver perch and endangered trout cod bred at the Centre and stocked throughout NSW.”

The Narrandera hatchery is currently undergoing a major upgrade to increase production capacity for native sportfish and threatened species.

The upgrade, which includes a new hatchery building fitted with state-of-the-art fish breeding technology, is part of a $6 million grant from the NSW Government.

The NSW Government is committed to breeding millions of native fish each year to keep our lakes and rivers well stocked.

Local and visiting recreational fishers will also benefit from hundreds of thousands of native sportfish stocked into local waterways.

Last season, 125,000 Murray cod were released into Wyangala Dam as well as 10,652 Golden perch and 2,955 Murray cod released into local waterways by the Jugiong and Narrandera Fishing Clubs, as part of the Dollar-for-Dollar program, supported by the Recreational Fishing Trusts.

These ongoing stocking events not only maintain and enhance recreational fisheries, but also benefit our local communities through tourism and economic opportunities.

The 2022-23 season has already commenced with broodstock collection and stocking already underway and this year’s season is expected to be one of the biggest yet.

For more information about fish stocking in NSW, visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au

Accelerating Success for Innovators

Entrepreneurs in new and emerging industries in regional NSW will be supported to grow their business, revenues, raise funds and create local jobs through the NSW Government’s $2 million Accelerating Regional Innovation Fund.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said this is an opportunity for growth in both business and sustainable practices.

“Businesses across our region are known for adapting to hurdles presented to them,” Ms Cooke said.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is a perfect example where we saw local businesses implement new ways of supporting the region and this fund will only encourage further such innovation.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said regional entrepreneurs face additional challenges to their metropolitan counterparts, including ready access to supply chains, partners, funding, and even customers.

“We know our regional and rural areas are places where you can turn a dream into reality, and I’m so pleased this fund is helping these pipeline ideas come to life,” Mr Toole said.

“This new fund will assist businesses access the right expertise to improve their capability and competitiveness, drive economic growth and will equip regional entrepreneurs with the skills they need to lead change.”

The Accelerating Regional Innovation Fund will provide grants of between $300,000 and $700,000 to accelerator and incubator programs in regional NSW, Newcastle and Wollongong that support regional entrepreneuers and start-ups in emerging sectors and future industries. 

The Accelerating Regional Innovation Fund supports the 20-year Economic Vision for Regional NSW and the NSW Government’s priorities and plans to achieve
long-term economic success for regional NSW communities.

Applications open on 4 August 2022 and close on 30 September 2022 at 2pm.

For further information about the Accelerating Regional Innovation Fund, including program guidelines and eligibility criteria, go to: www.nsw.gov.au/ARIF

Stronger Together Project Grants Now Open

Local community organisations planning events which foster community harmony are encouraged to apply for the next round of Multicultural NSW’s Stronger Together Program.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said the NSW Government is committed to supporting eligible grassroots organisations with projects designed to celebrate our cultural diversity. 

“Multicultural events and festivals are a great way to recognise the cultural diversity in our communities and bring people together in family-friendly environments,” Ms Cooke said. 

“While bringing people together they will also help break down barriers between cultures and build mutual understanding and respect of each other.” 

Funding of between $20,000 and $40,000 is now available to groups wanting to develop projects that help drive social cohesion in their local area. 

Funding will be available for projects to be delivered between 1 January 2023 and 31 December 2023.  

Applications for these grants opened on Monday, 1 August and will close at 5pm Friday, 26 August.  

More information about the grants can be found at https://multicultural.nsw.gov.au/grants  

Supporting Households to Bust their Energy Bills

Applications for the NSW Government’s Energy Bill Buster program to help households slash their power bills by up to $600 a year opened this week.

The 2022-23 NSW Budget included $128 million to help up to an initial 30,000 eligible households install solar or replace appliances with more energy efficient ones.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has welcomed the NSW Government’s announcement of the program and encouraged eligible households to apply.

“The NSW Government is committed to supporting families with the cost of living and help them reduce their energy bills across the region,” Ms Cooke said.

“This program is designed to help take the pressure off families and put more money back into household budgets.”

The Energy Bill Buster program provides eligible households with more choice on how they manage their energy bills. 

The program enables households to make decisions that will deliver long term savings on their energy bills while making clean energy improvements to their homes.

Those renting or living in apartments who are unable to have solar installed may be eligible to swap their current annual rebate for a suite of energy efficient upgrades, helping to reduce demand on the grid and lower power prices for everyone.

Appliances available in the package include energy efficient fridges, dryers, air-conditioners, and hot water systems as well as upgrades such as window shading and draught sealing valued at up to $4000.

The benefits are not just for private homeowners and tenants. The solar swap will also be offered to eligible land and housing corporation tenants later this year.

Eligible households include pensioners and Department of Veterans Affairs Gold Card holders receiving the Low-Income Household Rebate who can receive ten years’ worth of rebates upfront to put towards solar or appliance upgrades.

Households can check their Bill Buster eligibility and apply from Monday, 1 August, 2022 at www.energysaver.nsw.gov.au/rebate-swap

More Mobile Support to Combat Homelessness

More than 3,500 people across the region will have greater access to housing supports and services following the launch of a new mobile outreach program to assist people into stable accommodation.

Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke said the mobile outreach teams are expected to be travelling to West Wyalong, Temora, Young, Cootamundra, Junee and Narrandera throughout October.

“It is important for individuals and families in our smaller communities to have direct access to wrap-around support, with this program designed to help anyone at risk of being homeless engage with DCJ staff face-to-face,” Ms Cooke said.

Minister for Families and Communities and Minister for Disability Services Natasha Maclaren-Jones said the program would ensure regional communities, from Broken Hill to Leeton, are supported into stable accommodation. 

“This funding will ensure there are dedicated staff on the ground ready to help people living in regional communities to apply for housing,” Mrs Maclaren-Jones said.

“Housing stability plays a significant role in keeping families together and these regional outreach teams will provide people with the tools to make decisions which will ensure they have a better future.”

“By intervening early and providing people with the support they need, we can engage them with the right services to significantly reduce their risk of homelessness.”

The outreach patrol program will be launched in the Murrumbidgee, Far West and Western NSW regions and is expected to reach 35-50 people in each town.

It will serve as a mobile office travelling through regional areas and bringing with it information on services such as Rent Choice and Bond Loans, as well as access to housing supports.

The mobile patrol will also connect with existing service providers in those areas, such as specialist homelessness services, to build stronger relationships.

Apprenticeship and Traineeship Number Continue to Rise

The number of apprentices and trainees in jobs across the state increased 11 per cent in the year to December 2021, off the back of the NSW Government’s unprecedented investment in fee-free training.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER) report shows NSW continues to lead the nation, with more apprentices and trainees than any other state or territory.

“The NSW Government is investing in fee-free apprenticeships and traineeships to create a pipeline of skilled workers for jobs in industries that are experiencing high demand for employees,” Ms Cooke said.

“It’s great to see the number of apprentices and trainees continuing to grow in NSW, but we want more people to make the most of free training so that they can get a first job, a new job or a better job.”

The report shows that 106,445 apprentices and trainees were in training at the end of 2021, with both commencements and completions up overall on the year before.

The number of women undertaking apprenticeships and traineeships in NSW continues to surge, with a 21 per cent increase in 2021 compared with the year before.

Minister for Skills and Training Alister Henskens said the NSW Government is removing barriers to vocational education and training and creating more opportunities than ever before for people to get skilled or upskill.

“The NSW Government’s push to turbocharge the take-up of vocational education and training is securing a brighter future for NSW, with more people getting skilled, finding jobs and growing the economy,” Mr Henskens said.

“Our record skills investment is helping people boost their budget through free training, allowing them to find in-demand jobs and contribute to historically low unemployment rates in NSW.”

More information about the report is available here: Apprentices and trainees 2021: December quarter (ncver.edu.au)

More Local Roads to be Fixed in the Region

More roads in the Cootamundra electorate are in line for vital repair, maintenance and sealing work with Round Four of the NSW Government’s Fixing Local Roads program now open.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said previous rounds of the program have allocated over $45 million to deliver road projects across the nine local government areas of the Cootamundra electorate.

“We have seen crucial road projects supported through every round of Fixing Local Roads and with the fourth round now open, councils in our region have the chance to apply for funding to deliver more,” Ms Cooke said.

“Works may include sealing, resurfacing, gravel road maintenance, drainage improvement and patching, leading to more reliable, safer journeys with less wear and tear on vehicles.”

“These improvements help stimulate our regional economy and contribute to the social wellbeing of families, farmers and freight who rely on these roads to get to work, education and services.”

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads said the NSW Government has already funded almost 500 Fixing Local Roads projects across 95 regional councils and now with Round Four opening, even more projects will get underway.

“NSW has certainly had its fair share of natural disasters and extreme weather, and while we cannot control Mother Nature, we can control our response by improving the standard of our local road network,” Mr Farraway said.

So far, the Fixing Local Roads program has provided $547 million for 498 projects over three rounds. Of these, 203 are now completed with a further 295 in the planning and construction phases.

“After 16 years, the former Labor Government left NSW with a $30 billion infrastructure backlog, our Government is building our way forward with a $19.4 billion regional roads and transport infrastructure pipeline.”

Councils in the Cootamundra electorate have until 2 September to apply for Round Four Fixing Local Roads funding. For more information on the Fixing Local Roads Program click here.  https://roads-waterways.transport.nsw.gov.au/business-industry/partners-suppliers/lgr/grant-programs/fixing-local-roads.html

$160 Million to help make Our Region Stronger

Applications will soon open for the fifth round of the NSW Government’s Stronger Country Communities Fund, which will see further investment in local community infrastructure and programs that will make a big difference to our region.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said the latest round was a great opportunity for councils and community groups to seek funding for projects that improve the quality of life in smaller communities.

“I am very pleased the NSW Government is delivering on its commitment of supporting investment in regional and rural communities, making our region an even better place to live and visit,” Ms Cooke said.

“We have seen a great number of local projects delivered through this program, and I encourage eligible organisations with a great project in mind to make the most of this opportunity and submit an application.”

Over $44 million for 227 projects across the nine local government areas of the Cootamundra electorate has been secured through the program to date.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said the latest round of the Stronger Country Communities Fund builds on the previous rounds and continues to provide important infrastructure and programs for regional towns.

“The Stronger Country Communities Fund is continuing to make a real difference to the lives of people right across regional NSW, with $500 million invested over the past four rounds delivering more than 2,000 local projects in regional NSW,” Mr Toole said.

“Everywhere I go, people tell me about the positive difference that Stronger Country Communities Fund projects make to their everyday life, whether it’s a new skate park that kids of all ages love, new lighting for sports grounds or programs that support and inspire young people living in the bush.

“The NSW Government is investing record amounts to deliver the big picture infrastructure needed to stimulate regional economies, but we’re also backing community projects that make a big positive difference to everyday life.”

The $660 million Stronger Country Communities Fund is part of the NSW Government’s $3.3 billion Regional Growth Fund, which is being invested in local projects that improve the lives of people living in regional NSW.

Applications for Round Five of the Stronger Country Communities Fund open on Friday, 5 August 2022.

For more information, visit: www.nsw.gov.au/sccf

Hillas Creek Bridge at Mundarlo Upgrade

The NSW Government has today announced the Hillas Creek timber bridge at Mundarlo will receive funding through Round Two of the $500 million Fixing Country Bridges program.

Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke said it is fantastic that the NSW Government is investing in stronger and longer lasting infrastructure in regional NSW.

“This funding will allow for Cootamundra Gundagai Regional Council to upgrade Hillas Creek Bridge from a timber bridge to concrete bridge.”

“Safer and stronger bridges will help keep motorists moving around the region for generations to come.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway said $49.25 million has been awarded to replace 34 timber bridges with concrete bridges across 21 Local Government Areas (LGA).

“Our government is getting on with the job of building infrastructure to better withstand extreme weather events and protect our supply chain,” Mr Farraway said.

“That’s why we’re pushing ahead with Round 2A of the Fixing Country Bridges program in LGAs where councils are ready to get work, so these projects can get started.

A total of $290 million has already been awarded to councils under Round 1 of Fixing Country Bridges to replace more than 400 timber structures across 54 LGAs across the state.