A government MP has rejected a claim this year’s state budget was driven by “politics and pork barrelling”, despite the majority of the money going to the Illawarra’s Liberal-held seats.
A Mercury analysis of funding allocations as part of the 2017-18 NSW budget, handed down on Tuesday, showed 17 of the 27 projects given cash were located in the region’s electorates held by the government.
The analysis included new and ongoing projects in the Liberal seats of Heathcote, Kiama and the South Coast, as well as the Labor strongholds of Keira, Wollongong and Shellharbour.
Kiama and the South Coast were the big winners, with both electorates set to share in a $789.9 million investment in the Princes Highway over the next four years.
Of that four-year highway spend, $137 million will be spent in 2017-18 – $35.5 million to complete the Berry bypass, $17.3 million to continue Albion Park Rail bypass planning and pre-construction and $15 million set aside to start work on the Berry to Bomaderry upgrade.
A large portion of the $790 million, which doesn’t include the $170 million Restart NSW commitment, is expected to spent on the Berry to Bomaderry upgrade.
A total cost for the 10.5km duplication project, which is expected to begin early next year and be completed by 2021, has not been disclosed.
The Mercury understands the cost is $400 million.
Overall, the majority of the budget money went towards continuing work-in-progress projects.
The two new major projects were in the Liberals’ Kiama and South Coast electorates – $1.5 million in 2017-18 to upgrade the Minnamurra Rainforest by 2020 (total commitment $4.7 million) and $4.4 million for the Shoalhaven Hospital car park ($9.8 million).
Wollongong MP Paul Scully said despite the government boasting about a $4.5 billion surplus, the city was “one big budget black hole”.
“If the Premier wants to be defined by this budget, it defines her as driven by politics and pork barrelling and not by the needs of the people in NSW – and especially not by the people with needs in the Illawarra,” Mr Scully said.
“A privatised hospital is coming our way in Shellharbour, there are no lifts at Unanderra station, and we do not have the investment we need for jobs creation.”
The Illawarra’s parliamentary secretary Gareth Ward hit back, and said the Liberals had delivered more for the region’s Labor seats than Labor did in government.
“Labor took those seats for granted because they were sure bets. While ever the people of Keira, Wollongong and Shellharbour continue to allow Labor to treat them with contempt they will continue to promise nothing for the region,” Mr Ward said.
Work on new ambulance stations to begin
Construction of a new ambulance station at Berry will begin this coming financial year – one of two upgraded facilities to be delivered to Illawarra paramedics.
The $5 million spends previously flagged for both projects – announced by the government prior to the 2015 state election – were included in this year’s NSW budget.
Parliamentary secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward said the station builds were “a major shot in the arm for ambulance services”.
“In one case we’re delivering a service where there isn’t one,” Mr Ward said.
“In another, we’re ensuring that we provide fast response times by getting the ambulance station out of the Kiama CBD and at a location where the ambulance officers can respond quicker to call outs in Kiama, Jamberoo and Kiama Downs.”
Health Services Union member Rod Hatton told the Mercury this week the region needed more “bums on seats”, rather than new buildings.
A development application for the new Berry station has been lodged.