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Resources for Regions under fire

Saturday, 21st February, 2015

Association of Mining Related Councils Chair Peter Shinton (centre) with Minister for Resources and Energy, Anthony Roberts (left) and Shadow Minister, Mick Veitch. Association of Mining Related Councils Chair Peter Shinton (centre) with Minister for Resources and Energy, Anthony Roberts (left) and Shadow Minister, Mick Veitch.

It might be funding an upgrade to the Civic Centre but the Resources for Regions program has again come under fire from the very councils it was set up to help.

Since the program was established in 2011, over $120 million has been allocated to projects in areas where mining has put pressure on public infrastructure and services.

This week it was Broken Hill’s turn, with the State government announcing the program would be used to fund a $5 million upgrade to the Civic Centre.

It’s the first time the city has received funding under the four-year program since it was included in the list of eligible local government areas.

But the Association of Mining Related Councils (AMRC) is now accusing the government of using it to fund projects that should be funded through the Capital Works program.

It’s citing a $6.5 million upgrade to the Muswellbrook Hospital Emergency Department as an example of the government’s misuse of the program.

“There doesn’t seem to be any model for allocating Resources for Regions funding to councils,” association chairman Peter Shinton said.

“As mining royalties do not fund this program, it appears to be at the Government’s discretion.”

The AMRC has been campaigning for a Royalties for Regions scheme where mining centres would receive a percentage of the mining royalties which go into State Government coffers.

Resources and Energy Minister Anthony Roberts baulked at the association’s claim, telling a meeting of the councils in Sydney recently that any community should welcome millions in funding for its hospital.

Shadow Minister for Regional Infrastructure and Services Mick Veitch, who also attended the meeting, said the program had been “poorly implemented and administered”.

He said a number of councils had expected to receive funding and were yet to see any at all.

“It was put clearly to the Minister that this association is not very happy with this program,” Mr Veitch said.

“The sentiment of the association was that Resources for Regions is being used to build infrastructure that should be funded through the State Capital Works program.”

But Mr Veitch would not say if Labor would scrap the program if elected.

While Broken Hill has supported calls for a royalties scheme, Mayor Wincen Cuy said yesterday the Civic Centre was a “good example” of the what Resources for Regions was supposed to achieve.

“I don’t think the government would normally fund an upgrade of the Civic Centre,” he said.

“From our point of view this is a good example of the NSW government really looking outside the square.”

The mayor said Broken Hill’s inclusion in the program was unique given it was supposed to provide infrastructure and services to mining communities experiencing growth.

Broken Hill had a declining population, he said, but the government clearly wanted to help it diversify away from mining, and one way was to tap into the conference market.

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