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Gulaptis backs government’s spending strategy

Geoff Helisma | Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis says he has complete faith in how the NSW Government is spending money from its electricity privatisations and the sale of the Snowy Hydro Scheme to the Australian Government. In last week’s story, Iconic Grafton firm increases workforce thanks to government infrastructure spend, Mr Gulaptis’s media release stated: “…any fear of a downturn after the Highway upgrade is completed has been alleviated following the Nationals’ success in ensuring every cent of the NSW Government’s $4.3 billion sale of its share of the Snowy Hydro Scheme to the Commonwealth will be invested in regional NSW Infrastructure”. The Independent emailed a series of questions to Mr Gulaptis, who is the NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Planning, pointing out that last October’s Auditor General’s report revealed that only 19.2 per cent of Restart NSW Fund had been spent in the regions over the preceding five years. The Restart NSW Fund Act 2011 calls for 30 per cent of its funding to be spent in regional areas. The Auditor General’s report also stated “14 per cent of Restart NSW Fund payments were directed to infrastructure projects in rural and regional areas outside metropolitan Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong” during the 2016/17 financial year. The Independent asked: What assurances can Chris give that the Snowy Hydro money will be “invested in regional NSW Infrastructure”, given the government’s failure to comply with its Restart NSW Fund Act 2011 legislation? Can Chris provide any insight into what the government is doing to rectify the Restart NSW anomaly? Is there any specific infrastructure Chris has in mind regarding any future projects in the Clarence Valley that will be funded by the Snowy Hydro sale once the highway and bridge works are completed? Mr Gulaptis replied with the following statement: “It’s important to emphasise that Restart NSW is a National Party initiative and that Labor opposed the fund. “The NSW Liberals and Nationals Government has already committed/reserved over 30 per cent of Restart Funding to projects in regional and rural areas, and, as a Government, we legislated it. “The Auditor-General’s report is a snap-shot of payments out of the Restart NSW fund over the last 5 years for infrastructure projects in regional NSW. “The 30 per cent regional and rural funding target is not an annual target; rather it’s a target to be met over the life of the Restart NSW Fund. “The Restart Fund is investing $7 million to build stage two of the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange in Casino and funding the construction of the new Clarence Correctional Centre, which will inject more than $560 million into the local economy, create 1100 jobs during construction and 600 permanent positions once operational by 2020. “Under The Nationals, regional NSW will receive its entire share of funding under Restart NSW. “As a region we are already seeing the benefits of the Restart Fund. “The Snowy Hydro Scheme is one of Australia’s iconic projects and it’s appropriate that the $4.2 billion received from the sale be used to set up regional NSW for decades to come.”