Tuesday, 04 July 2017 09:57

Message from the President: NSW Budget 2017

WSROC President Cr Stephen Bali WSROC President Cr Stephen Bali

The 2017-18 NSW Budget offered few surprises for infrastructure investment, however there were some great wins for health services and young people.

There were few surprises with regards to Western Sydney’s infrastructure program. Roads supporting Western Sydney Airport and the region’s North West, scoping for Western Sydney rail, and planning for Parramatta Light Rail have all become firm features on the state agenda.

While these upgrades are certainly welcomed, we must not rest on our laurels. Much more will be needed to cope with Western Sydney’s projected population growth, and WSROC councils will be looking to the Western Sydney City Deal to build upon the infrastructure already in the pipeline.

That said, the promise of a more coordinated approach to planning Western Sydney’s growth areas is encouraging. In particular, WSROC welcomes a review of the infrastructure contributions system which will help relieve pressure on local government in Sydney’s key growth areas.

One of the biggest winners from the 2017-18 Budget is Western Sydney school students.

Western Sydney schools will benefit from $4.2 billion to be spent on new and upgraded school infrastructure to cater for rapidly growing school populations as well as $2.2 billion for skills development and vocational education.

Young people and their families will also benefit from the $207 million Active Kids Rebate which will reduce barriers to sports participation for young people in Western Sydney by offering $100 per child enrolled in organised sport.

Childhood obesity and lifestyle diseases are a major concern for the West, so setting up our young people to live more active lifestyles is critical.

The West will also benefit from a string of hospital upgrades right across Western Sydney, and a dedicated 24 hour palliative care service to be run out of the Western Sydney Local Health District.

An increased commitment to settlement and translation services is a big win for the West’s community services sector who are managing large increases in humanitarian migrants, particularly in the region’s south west.

However it is important to recognise the pressure that settlement can put on everyday services such as schools, housing, libraries and health clinics. High migration areas such as Fairfield (who settled around 9,000 people last year) will need targeted support as the conflict in Syria continues.

Arts and cultural funding continues to be a major concern for Western Sydney. Despite Western Sydney’s status as a priority region under Create NSW, this budget offers very little dedicated arts and cultural funding outside Sydney’s major institutions.

While there is significant investment planned for Western Sydney, more investment in roads, transport, community centres and social infrastructure will be needed to maintain quality of life as the region grows.