Nationals leader Dugald Saunders has slammed the Premier for failing to rule out a legislation change to the Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund that would see the remaining allocation ripped away from regional NSW.
The $4.2 billion kitty was created after the State sold its stake in the project to the Commonwealth, with every cent committed to improving infrastructure in the bush.
Mr Saunders said the fund was announced by the former Liberal and Nationals Government to support better water security, digital connectivity, road and rail, freight links and the establishment of Special Activation Precincts.
“The Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund Act was passed in 2018 to enhance our regional communities that contribute so much to our State,” Mr Saunders said.
“In a way, it was designed to ‘Labor-proof’ the regions and ensure there was funding available for the bush in the event of a change of government.
“I asked Chris Minns in Question Time about his plans for this fund, and he refused to guarantee he won’t amend the legislation to allow him to use it for his chosen projects.
“This should not come as a shock because we have a Premier who wants to scrap every idea that isn’t his, and a Minister for Regional NSW who is watching it unfold and not fighting for the bush.”
Parkes mayor Ken Keith said about $280 million was invested into his town’s Special Activation Precinct, diversifying the region’s industries.
“Without the Snowy Hydro money and the development of the Special Activation Precinct, we wouldn’t have Brightmark, which is a US company involved in advanced plastics recycling, that has invested a further $260 million to establish a facility in Parkes,” Mr Keith said.
“With that though, we need better connectivity to the three ports in NSW and that was where we were hoping we would get more funding through Snowy Hydro.
“With this kind of investment, we can do great things in the bush and show that not everything has to be done in Sydney.”
Lachlan Shire Council mayor John Medcalf also highlighted the importance of the fund, raising the need for water security and projects like the raising of Wyangala Dam.
“It would be a big concern for us if the Snowy Hydro fund was changed because we have major infrastructure projects in the bush that require large levels of investment,” Mr Medcalf said.
“Last year we saw what can happen along the Lachlan River with Forbes, Condobolin and other places suffering major flooding, and if we had the funding and approval for the wall-raising project, it would help us mitigate the flood risk, while also ensuring water security during drought.
“We know drought will happen again, we know floods will happen again, but if we lose a fund like Snowy Hydro, which is specifically designed to make things like the Wyangala project possible, then it’s going to be hard to see it ever happening.”