Country spend vital for future growth

The NSW Government has been urged to work constructively with farmers and rural communities as the state dries out and drought concerns grow.

While Treasurer Daniel Mookhey had warned the state’s first Labor Budget in more than a decade would include cuts to help balance the books, NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin said there was a significant need to boost spending outside of the cities.

“We certainly welcome the government’s announcement of more than $700 million in new funding to upgrade and maintain badly damaged regional roads in next week’s Budget,” Mr Martin said.

“There is a great deal of work that needs to be done right across the state to get our roads safe for delivering food from farm gate to dinner plate.

“But we can’t forget the need to fund upgrades of key highways and railway line connections to unlock the full economic potential of the agricultural sector.”

Agriculture was worth $23.1 billion to the state last year, and investment in supply chain upgrades would be needed to boost that figure to $30 billion by 2030, Mr Martin said. But he warned dry times ahead could set the agricultural sector and country communities back without smart investment.

“The state has had great agricultural productivity since the last drought broke, despite extraordinary flooding events, but you can’t grow healthy plants and healthy animals without water,” Mr Martin said.

“I think we’re in a much better position in terms of drought preparedness than we were in 2018, but we still need the resources of Local Land Services and the Department of Primary Industries, as well as programs to increase resilience.

“This is investment, not a handout; strategic use of public funding will deliver positive returns not just to the state coffers, but also to the health of rural and regional communities.”

Mr Martin also noted announcements of a $350 million boost to the new NSW Regional Development Trust Fund, rural and regional school improvements and additional country paramedics were very positive but said there was an overall workforce problem that needed to be addressed.

“Country communities need schools and paramedics, but they also need police and teachers, more tradies, and more health workers,” Mr Martin said.

“The rise in regional migration through the pandemic and now during a cost-of-living crisis is putting enormous strain on our towns and villages, and without smart investment, dysfunction will increase.

“We will be looking closely at this budget to see where there might be opportunities to improve services and liveability in rural and regional areas.”

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Media Contact:  Steve Mudd – 0429 011 690  |  [email protected]

Date: Monday, 18 September 2023
Ref: MR/109/23