Bathurst MP Paul Toole and his Nationals colleague Troy Grant have rejected claims of a Sydney-centric bias in the NSW Government.
The pair has also hit back at claims the government had failed to spend a mandated 30 per cent of infrastructure funds in regional areas.
But Orange MP Philip Donato (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers) said many decisions made by the Berejiklian-Barilaro government have demonstrated its city-centric bias.
Mr Donato said the NSW government approach negatively impacted the rural and regional areas, saying a clear disparity exists in the funding of infrastructure.
The debate began after NSW Labor leader Michael Daley alleged in the NSW Parliament that the state government was “ripping off regional NSW by failing to meet the 30 per cent requirement for Restart NSW infrastructure spending to go to regional NSW”.
UNCONVINCED: Orange MP Philip Donato said he holds the current NSW government accountable for not spending in regions. Photo: FILE
Mr Daley cited the Auditor-Generals latest report on the 2017-18 State Finances to back his claims.
He alleged the NSW government spent only 17 per cent of funds in 2017-18, 14 per cent in 2016-17, 10 per cent in 2015-16 and 25 per cent in 2014-15 from the Restart NSW fund in regional areas.
The Restart NSW Fund is a dedicated infrastructure fund, which was established in 2011 to improve the economic growth and productivity of the state.
According to the state government, more than $32.9 billion had been deposited into the Restart NSW fund since 2011.
Of the $32.9 billion, $22.4 billion was committed to infrastructure projects and programs across NSW by the end of June 2018.
Data showed that the combined Central West and Orana region was the biggest beneficiary of the Restart NSW Fund.
The NSW government committed $251.8 million for 113 projects in the region.
Some of the projects are Mudgee Airport upgrade ($2 million), Lithgow City Council – redevelopment of Black Bridge ($3.5 million), Orange Airport runway upgrade ($1.46 million), Orange to Blayney Pipeline stage 1 ($21.21 million), Orange to Molong Pipeline stage 1 ($16.67 million), Dubbo City Regional Airport runway and lighting upgrade ($7.46 million) and the Mount Panorama Boardwalk ($1 million).
Most of the 113 projects are currently in the implementation stage.
Mr Grant, who will retire from politics at the 2019 state election, said the NSW Government was honouring its funding commitment with ongoing and unprecedented investment in regional NSW.
“In the 2018/19 state budget, the Restart NSW Fund had a balance of $32.9 billion, with $9.5 billion or 29 per cent of the fund, already reserved for projects in regional NSW,” Mr Grant said.
“This fund was opposed by the NSW Labor Party and the Shooters Party, so it is hypocritical to oppose the fund with one breath and then demand faster payments from the fund with another.
“More than two-thirds of jobs created in the past year have been in regional NSW and we still have more room to grow,” he said.
Mr Toole also defended the state government.
“Michael Daley is wrong,” Mr Toole said.
“Only the NSW Liberals and Nationals Government is committed to regional NSW. Bathurst is experiencing unprecedented investment into the region, which was neglected for years under Labor.
“The Restart NSW Fund is helping to deliver infrastructure projects in the Bathurst Electorate, which includes roads, bridge upgrades, tourism projects, water security and reliable wastewater services,” he said.
Mr Donato, however, was not convinced with the reasoning.
He said it is not just an allegation that the government have not directed the legislated 30 per cent of funding toward Regional NSW.
“The significant shortfall is a fact which is recorded in the public document from the Audit Office,” Mr Donato, a member of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, said.
“There are a number of important infrastructure projects in Orange, and the Orange electorate more broadly, which need the funding to be delivered so that the benefits will be realised by our community.
“If the full 30 per cent of the Restart NSW fund was delivered to regional NSW as legislated, then it would make a difference. I will be holding this government to account and ensure they deliver the full 30 per cent of infrastructure funding to regional NSW, which they are obligated to do.”
This story Toole and Grant spar with Donato over government regional spending first appeared on Western Advocate.