DESPITE the federal government’s recent budget cuts to the states that NSW Premier Mike Baird described as a “kick in the guts” his government has delivered a budget that is largely positive for regional residents.
As has become the custom in Canberra, the delivering of the state budget on Tuesday followed earlier funding announcements, meaning there were few surprises.
For the Central Tablelands there was promised funding to begin the planning and assessment process for the Needles Gap dam on the Belubula River upstream of Canowindra, with millions more to come as the $150 million project gets closer to construction.
The significant news here was not the first round of funding but rather the comments from member for Orange Andrew Gee.
In a stark departure from the rhetoric of federal Nationals MP John Cobb, whose government declined to fund the project, Mr Gee acknowledged there is already opposition emerging to flooding a valley containing the significant Cliefden Caves system.
A “heavy-handed” approach was not the way, Mr Gee said when welcoming this and other projects in a $325 million boost to regional water security.
The spectacular photographs now emerging of the limestone caverns that would be flooded will add another level of complexity to environmental assessment of the impact further downstream.
Universally welcomed, however, was funding to continue realignment work on the dangerous stretch of the Mitchell Highway near Molong known as Goanna Hill.
There was also $46 million from the state government for regional road freight, including upgrading bridges and truck stops.
Missing from the budget, however, was any specific funding to help create employment for Electrolux and other workers in the region facing redundancy.
There have been continuing talks between the state government, Electrolux and unions about regional job creation but the only big-ticket item to date has been the dam proposed by Mr Cobb with funding commitments from the state government and a five-year time frame that is looking more and more unrealistic.