POLL: Hands out for project cash

MORE than $100million in state money for infrastructure projects in the Hunter will be up for grabs next month.

The region’s councils are eager for a slice of the pie.

The Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund board will make recommendations before the year’s end to NSW Planning and Infrastructure Minister Brad Hazzard about spending the money.

Hunter councils have made bids for projects. Several councillors said it would be interesting to learn which projects get a guernsey and how big a part politics play.

The fund includes $350million over four years in an O’Farrell government  election promise.

About $230million has been allocated to projects that the government selected, with the remaining $120million available to applicants.

With the state government strapped for cash, onlookers are eager to see if the  full amount is allocated.

Lake Macquarie deputy mayor Laurie Coghlan said he expected his city to attract some money.

‘‘To tell you the truth I think politics will play a part, as it always does,’’ Cr Coghlan said.

‘‘Until I see the cash in the bank, it’s only a promise.’’

Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell said the board had been set up as an independent body. 

‘‘It is at arm’s length from politicians, as it should be,’’ Mr Cornwell said.

‘‘It is a regional fund and everything needs to be looked at in the regional context.’’

The fund’s board has five members, with Maitland mayor Peter Blackmore its chairman.

‘‘All applications will have a good hearing and a good chance of success,’’ Cr Blackmore said, adding he did not expect favourable treatment for Maitland.

A panel, which includes three Hunter Development Corporation members and two state bureaucrats, was considering applications against criteria before passing them to the board.

The corporation, which is administering the scheme, said about 45 applications came  from 30 groups.

Submissions covered water supply and sewerage, transport, roads, bridges, health, education, arts, community facilities and sport.

Applications were open to state agencies and councils, but private organisations could apply with a government body.

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