By Member for Barwon, Roy Butler

This week the NSW Treasurer delivered the 2021-22 NSW budget and overall I think it’s another good budget for the Barwon electorate.

This year there is $740 million in electorate specific funding, many of the projects funded including road upgrades, domestic water supply projects, and local park upgrades come from councils and community groups across the electorate talking to me and my team.

I’ve taken up getting funding with government ministers and this positive budget for us is the result.

There is always more to do, and we are playing catch up after years of underinvestment, but overall I’m happy with how we’ve fared.

There are a few announcements that I’m particularly happy about and a few where the devil is in the detail.

Intensive care paramedics for the bush:

One issue I have been plugging away on since I was a candidate was the lack of intensive care paramedics in the bush.

The budget included funding for 203 regional paramedics to train to become intensive care paramedics.

We don’t know how many will be converted in Barwon, but it wouldn’t be hard to improve on the five (yes just five) we have now for 44 per cent of NSW.

More money for mobile phone blackspots:

Across the electorate there are hundreds of mobile phone blackspots – I’m contacted regularly by people absolutely fed up with dodgy reception right in the centre of some of our towns.

In this budget the NSW government tipped a further $50 million into improving mobile coverage in the regions – which is great news.

I’m a bit sceptical though because they’ve struggled to get funding out the door in this space with hundreds of millions still unspent from their $400 million pre-election announcement to ‘eradicate blackspots across NSW’.

For those following along – the government have invested in six towers in Barwon covering 3000 square kilometres.

The electorate is over 356,000 square kilometres.

The six towers represents a 0.84 per cent improvement in the areas with coverage in Barwon.

This pile of money needs to be turned into a tangible difference for people in the bush.

Mice eradication funding:

The biggest losers in the budget according to the Treasurer are mice. The $150 million for mice eradication is late, but came about through my working with the Country Women’s Association and NSW Farmers – and the loud united voice from all of us battling the buggers.

Funding for more health professionals:

It was a passing statement from the Treasurer, but it was there – a commitment to employ “almost 1800 more nurses, midwives, doctors and allied health staff in the year ahead”.

Goodness knows we could do with a fair few of them in our health facilities in Barwon.

Where they will be allocated hasn’t been announced but I’ll certainly be advocating for our share in Barwon.

$1.64bn for buses, bus routes and school bus routes.

It’s another issue that I’ve continually raised with the government – school bus route funding across the west.

There are a number of families that have been left with no other option but loading the kids in the car and clocking hundreds of kilometres a week just to do the school run.

This budget includes $1.641 billion for bus services including school buses – I’ll keep beating the drum to make sure we get a slice of this funding.

There’s also billions of dollars in statewide programs that we’ll get a share of.

We’re coming into the parliament winter break which is prime time for members of the government to head out to Barwon and cut ribbons, pose for photo opportunities and make announcements.

As always – smile, shake their hand and ask for more.

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