11 August 2023

Country mayors stake regional claims for more equitable slice of funding pie as State Budget looms

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Aerial view of a small town

The Country Mayors Association of NSW, representing 84 councils and more than 3 million residents, is lobbying the State Government, seeking equity for the regions. Photo: File.

With the September State Budget approaching, the Country Mayors Association of NSW (CMA) has called on the government to address critical priorities for regional communities.

CMA chairman mayor Jamie Chaffey said the people of regional and rural NSW were not only residents but had provided the country with food services and more.

Cr Chaffey said the State Government had a clear responsibility to listen to the rural and regional residents.

“We are calling on the State Government not to forget the heart of NSW in the upcoming September Budget,” Cr Chaffey said.

“People deserve equity for their businesses, their communities and their families wherever they live within the state.

“After extensive consultation with our members, we are presenting the NSW Government with a document [CMA 2023 State Budget Priorities] that lists the top-five priorities for rural and regional NSW, and includes some very clear ways forward.”

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Cr Chaffey said the CMA had carefully considered the requests to act on regional needs.

He said financial sustainability, housing, labour, transport, roads and health were the key areas for which the CMA members had asked the association to go in to bat for them to demand equity for regional residents.

He said the regional and rural voices and needs had to be heard by the government.

CMA deputy chairman Mayor Rick Firman said the CMA Budget document that would be presented to the government had realistic and achievable requests that could have a huge impact on regional and rural communities.

“In the current economic climate, financial sustainability for regional areas is always front of mind,” Cr Firman said.

“We have been hit with escalating costs at every turn, and we have suggested ways this could be addressed, such as continuing extremely popular grant programs like Stronger Country Communities, Resources for Regions, Fixing Local Roads and Bridges, Safe and Secure Water, and Connecting Country Communities.

“Now is the time to support our regions, not withdraw programs that are already making a major difference.”

Cr Firman said the CMA was seeking a commitment to a four-year funding program to meet housing challenges.

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He said the Building Country Homes program would help CMA member councils to increase available housing stock.

The CMA document asks the government for a NSW Skills Board to oversee the Department of Skills and Training review of the Smart and Skilled Program to find solutions to the ”inadequate” access to apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship courses in country NSW.

The document asks for a review of the local health district and measures to address critical healthcare shortages.

It also seeks a commitment to funding the Fixing Local Program from 2023-27 with provision for the inflation rate and changes to the terms of the scheme.

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