Lucinda Garbutt Young reporting for the Newcastle Herald

20 September 2023

CHRIS Minns spoke of the “sharp elbows” of Hunter MPs as they advocated for their electorates during the election campaign.

But a range of Hunter stakeholders say Labor has delivered a muted result in the Labor state government’s first state budget.

Upper Hunter MP Dave Layzell, of the Nationals described the budget as a “slash and burn”.

“This is the start of the bushfire season and it starts right here in Macquarie Street,” Mr Layzell said. “This is all about moving money into Western Sydney and into the public sector to appease the unions”.

Property Council of Australia’s Hunter director, Anita Hugo, said the budget had not adequately addressed “severe” housing shortages. She felt market prices and rental strain would continue to skyrocket.

“It is an issue across the state but when we look at the Hunter, housing is really critically needed,” Ms Hugo said. “The Hunter used to have an advantage over bigger cities like Sydney and now we’re experiencing the same issues”.

The Property Council has been calling for $500 million Hunter Infrastructure Fund for about two years.

The Hunter Park redevelopment – which would include social housing – was not mentioned in the Budget.

Committee for the Hunter CEO Alice Thompson said local MPs may be “ducking for cover” after major Hunter projects were “pulled” from the agenda.

“This includes Hunter Park where business case for a new entertainment and conference centre has been completed and presents the obvious, shovel ready first stage of development,” Ms Thompson said.

Ms Hugo said it was disappointing Hunter Park had not been addressed.

The budget does not mention the Resources for Regions Fund, which offered $140 million in its most recent round.

Mr Layzell said while he was “thankful” for funding allocated to Upper Hunter projects like flood mitigation and the Singleton and Muswellbrook bypasses, he was upset the fund had been cut.

“The program is about taking royalities the government has and putting them back into coal mining communities to make sure that people are compensated for the fact they live next to these coal mines,” he said.

NSW Mineral Council’s chief executive, Stephen Galilee, said the state’s fiscal position was “commendable” but regional mining communities were amongst the worst hit.

“The billions delivered in royalty revenue are only possible due to the contribution of the hard-working people of our regional mining communities,” he said.

“It is therefore extremely disappointing that despite the extra billions to be delivered in mining royalties, the budget cuts several key mining-related funding programs”.