NSW Budget - what it means to the Hunter

TREASURER Mike Baird has unveiled a budget $824 million in deficit that flags up to 10,000 public sector job losses as part of what he describes as a dose of ‘‘medicine’’ for the state now to ensure a bright future.

The centrepiece is a series of measures aimed at kick-starting housing. First home owner’s grants will more than double to $15,000 from October for new properties worth up to $650,000, and a new home grant of $5000 will be available from July 1 for non-first home buyers of new properties worth up to $650,000 and vacant land up to $450,000.

For the main points at a glance, click here.

As well, the government has announced it will also pursue the long-term lease of Port Kembla in addition to privatising Port Botany, which was earmarked in last year’s budget.

The Port of Newcastle would remain in public hands, but the Port Kembla move likely signals the end to the former Labor government’s plans to make Newcastle the state’s next container terminal.

The budget poses a deficit of $824 million for 2012-13, with GST revenue down by $5 billion over four years since last year’s budget. It would rise to a surplus of $289 million in 2013-14 and to $1.17 billion by 2015-16.

The government would find savings of up to $2.2 billion over four years, through job cuts of up to 10,000 public servants.

But it has so far shed only about 1282 of the 5000 jobs earmarked to go in last year’s budget through voluntary redundancies.

The budget delivers just a trickle of funding, $9.9 million, to Singleton and Muswellbrook in the first allocation of money from a $160 million Resources for Regions program, which was a key election commitment to return a share of mining royalties to regional communities for infrastructure spending.

The Hunter Infrastructure Fund has received a further $74 million in 2012-13 out of the $350 million promised over four years. Nearly $10 million was allocated to the fund last year.

The fund spending includes $19 million for road improvements such as repairing Hunter wine region roads, and $19 million towards the upgrade of Nelson Bay Road between Anna Bay and Bobs Farm and the New England Highway through Maitland.

The roads budget has a further $25 million for the Newcastle to Sandgate section of the inner city bypass, which has recently stalled due to problems with construction contractor Reed.

The health budget included $7 million towards the purchase of land near the Calvary Mater hospital for a new cancer research and treatment centre, but no discernible boost to cancer services in the region despite revelations of significant treatment delays for patients in the Hunter New England area.

There is a further $15.7 million towards the $94 million Newcastle court precinct project, and $4.8 million this coming financial year towards a previously-announced $21 million program to revamp police stations in the Lake Macquarie local area command.

The government’s housing initiatives, dubbed the ‘‘Building the State’’ package, also targets 10 sites for the accelerated development of housing in metropolitan NSW. The government would help developers with the cost of infrastructure needed to support housing at the sites.

The Lower Hunter, which is due to have its major housing blueprint reviewed this year, is not included in the targeted program. The closest site is Warnervale where development of up to 1600 properties would be encouraged.

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