Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke MP says while she is relieved to see vital funding commitments for the Cootamundra electorate honoured in today’s NSW State Budget, there are spending cuts in other areas that are disappointing for residents in the regions.
Ms Cooke said that even though there is no new money allocated to the Cootamundra electorate in the NSW Budget, there are a number of projects that have survived Labor’s chopping block.
“After months and months of intense lobbying, I am very relieved that the NSW Labor Government has come to recognise the importance of maintaining the funding allocated by the previous Coalition Government to the Cowra Hospital, and Temora Hospital redevelopment projects,” Ms Cooke said.
“These projects represent a significant investment in the future prosperity of our regions; they are the culmination of years and years of hard work and planning, and I, along with the community, am breathing a sigh of relief that they will both go ahead as planned,” she said.
Ms Cooke said projects that retained much needed and well-deserved funding include:
• $110.2 million for the new Cowra Hospital Redevelopment
• $80 million for the new Temora Hospital Redevelopment
• $90,000 to complete the Young Hospital CT Scanner project
• $646,000 to complete the Narrandera Fisheries Upgrade
• $7 million for Hilltops Council for emergency road repairs
• $6.48 million for Bland Shire Council for emergency road repairs
• $3.9 million for Narrandera Shire Council for emergency road repairs
• $3.57 million for Coolamon Shire Council for emergency road repairs
• $3.49 million for Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council for emergency road repairs
• $3.4 million for Temora Shire Council for emergency road repairs
• $3.25 million for Cowra Shire Council for emergency road repairs
• $2.75 million for Weddin Shire Council for emergency road repairs
• $2.24 million for Junee Shire Council for emergency road repairs
• $6.89 million for improved social housing
“I have spent recent months advocating strongly for these projects, and I am certainly pleased that the government has listened, and most importantly has realised just how important they all are for the communities they will support,” Ms Cooke said.
“I am however disappointed that the NSW Labor Government has failed to understand just how crucial the project to raise the Wyangala Dam wall is to communities throughout the Central West. It appears they are standing by their decision to scrap what would have been a vital investment in drought preparedness and flood mitigation, however the community can be assured I will continue to do what I can to ensure this project isn’t forgotten.
“I’m also disappointed to see the government reduce funding for the equally important Safe and Secure Water Program. On a day when the Bureau of Meteorology formally declared an El Niño weather event – increasing the chances of a hot and dry summer – we need to invest now more than ever in water security projects, that will guarantee the safe and secure supply of water to towns, villages, farmers, and the environment throughout the regions.
“Alarmingly it appears the State Budget is silent on the funding needed for the demerger of the Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council. This is most concerning, and I will be writing to the Local Government Minister for urgent clarification on this.
“The delay in duplicating the Great Western Highway on the western side of the Blue Mountains is very disappointing, given it’s the main artery connecting our residents and businesses with greater Sydney, and I will continue to seek further clarification from the government regarding their commitment to maintaining transport infrastructure across the nine local government areas in our Cootamundra electorate.
“The gutting of the Stronger Country Communities Fund is a significant blow to regional areas. Since 2017, the Stronger Country Communities Fund (SCCF) has provided $660 million for more than 2,530 regional projects, so its removal will leave a gaping hole in investment in our regions,” she said.
Ms Cooke said the slashing of the Regional Seniors Travel Card, along with the abolition of the Regional Student Travel Card will have a significant impact on the budgets of those who have come to rely on them, particularly in light of the cost-of-living pressures many are facing.
“Families too will be impacted by the NSW Labor Government’s decision to scale back the Active Kids Rebate, the First Lap Voucher, and the Creative Kids Rebate – all programs introduced by the Coalition Government to support families at a time when they need it most,” Ms Cooke said.
“Today’s State Budget was a chance for the NSW Labor Government to show a genuine interest in the future growth and prosperity of our regional communities, and while I am very relieved to say we’ve managed to hold on to funding for a number of vital projects, I am disappointed in the cuts that have been made in other areas.
“However, residents across our Cootamundra electorate can be assured I will continue to make a lot of noise on their behalf, to ensure the voice of rural and regional communities are always heard, and that we get our fair share of funding for projects and programs that make a tangible difference to the every day lives of people in our communities,” she said.