NSW Nationals have announced they will change the controversial Resources for Regions criteria to allow all mining-impacted local government areas to access funding.
The Nationals have promised Resources for Regions funding for Gunnedah.
Despite several attempts by Gunnedah Shire Council to have Gunnedah included on the list, the shire has twice missed out on funding.
While some estimates have stated 50 per cent of Gunnedah’s population are employed at mines or in mining-related industries, Gunnedah has never been included on the list of towns that can apply for funding.
But at the Sunday launch of the Nationals NSW election campaign, Deputy Premier Troy Grant said a re-elected government would expand the program.
No details have yet been released of how much money would be available, or what criteria would be used to judge whether towns are “mining affected”.
Mr Grant also promised $25 million for reducing mobile phone black spots, and $15 million for Landcare groups.
Member for Tamworth and Nationals candidate for the seat Kevin Anderson said the Resources for Regions change would mean Gunnedah would qualify.
“Resources for Regions will now be open to projects in Tamworth and Gunnedah, which is a fantastic win for our community,” Mr Anderson said.
Gunnedah Shire Council mayor Owen Hasler was more cautious in his enthusiasm over the news.
“It is very positive,” Cr Hasler said.
“We – the Association of Mining-Related Councils and Gunnedah Shire Council – have been arguing that should happen in Gunnedah.
“Of course the real issue will be how much money they tip into the program. How many councils are now going to be eligible?
“There are plenty of programs that need to be funded, particularly if mining approvals are given by the federal government to Shenhua Watermark and the Vickery project.”
Projects funded through the Resources for Regions program in the past have included $20 million for the Musswellbrook Hospital, $9.9 million for a levee project in Maitland, $10.1 million for a new wastewater treatment plant in Lithgow, and $12.3 million to the Narrabri Water Supply Augmentation Project.
More than $75 million was spent through the program in the 2013-14 round of the program.
The Association of Mining Related Councils (AMRC) has also called on both the Coalition and Labor to make a pre-election commitment on mining impact analysis.
The association has called for an “urgent inquiry” into mining impacts.
AMRC chief executive officer Don Tydd said with the money collected by the NSW government in mining exploration licenses and royalties, it should be giving more back to councils.
The association said the inquiry should identify the “full range of mining and gas extraction socio-economic impacts on local government in NSW”.
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