Member for the Dubbo electorate Dugald Saunders has welcomed funding directed to the region in the NSW budget but has criticised the Labor Government for failing to back the bush.

He says people will be feeling the pinch after vital programs were axed like the Regional Seniors Travel Card, while the Department of Regional NSW had its capital expenditure almost completely diminished which will cost about 350 jobs.

A total of $81.31 million has been allocated to the continuation of the New Dubbo Bridge project and $2 million will go towards the replacement of the Rawsonville Bridge.

An additional $2.721 million will also be spent to continue the construction of the overtaking lane on the Mitchell Highway between Dubbo and Narromine.

Dubbo Regional Council has been granted $7.1 million from the $390 million Regional Emergency Road Repair Fund, while Mid-Western Council will receive $5.79 million from the same fund.

“Our commitment to Taronga Western Plains Zoo has also been backed in, with $6 million put towards the Serengeti visitor experience, $3.39 million given to finish off the platypus facility and another $3.09 million allocated to that visitor experience.”

Mr Saunders said while he welcomes any funding for the region, the Budget contains far more negatives than positives, especially when it comes to ripping up the Regional Seniors Travel Card and confusion over the proposed Government hub slated for Dubbo.

“Despite our best efforts the Regional Seniors Travel Card is gone and the Regional Growth Fund, which covers programs like the Stronger Country Communities Fund, the Regional Events Acceleration Fund and the Regional Job Creation Fund, will be redirected to other Government priorities and election commitments,” Mr Saunders said.

“In relation to the Government hub, we announced a $40 million complex with plans to knock down the current building and replace it with a new fit-for-purpose one that would house workers from a range of Government agencies.

“Just weeks ago, Labor announced it would only redevelop the existing building, but in the budget, it is slated as a $64.8 million project that will be a new purpose-built office hub, so I’m hoping there will be some clarity provided on this.

“Another question that needs answering is what the future of the Department of Regional NSW looks like. This is an agency we set up to have people in the bush looking after the needs of people in the bush. Its budget has been slashed by more than 90 per cent over the next three years which is horrific news for the staff in that agency and the communities it supports across regional NSW.”

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