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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 871


Mr GEE (Calare) (17:51): I move:

That this House:

(1) congratulates the Government on the success of the National Stronger Regions Fund (NSRF);

(2) acknowledges the significant and positive impact that the NSRF is having in rural, remote and disadvantaged regions around Australia; and

(3) notes that the:

(a) Government is investing $205,622,942 in 70 projects around New South Wales under 3 rounds of the NSRF; and

(b) NSRF is delivering infrastructure projects to create jobs in regional areas, improve community facilities and support stronger and more sustainable communities across NSW.

The Australian government is committed to building stronger regions. After all, regional Australia allows our cities to exist. Regional Australia supplies our water, our food and, indeed, our natural resources. Additionally, regional Australia has a vital role to play in driving economic development, lifting productivity and fostering innovation. To strengthen communities in our regions and to drive new growth there, the coalition government established the National Stronger Regions Fund as part of its 2013 election commitments for regional Australia. Over three rounds of the National Stronger Regions Fund, over $632 million was invested nationally into 229 projects. A total of $205,622,942 was invested into 70 projects across New South Wales.

At the recent federal election, the coalition government refocused the National Stronger Regions Fund to be available only to regional, rural and remote Australia and broadened it to include small community groups. This is a development which has been extremely warmly received out in country New South Wales and Australia. The majority of the $297 million is expected to go to infrastructure. However, the new fund will, for the first time, provide an opportunity for those smaller groups and volunteer organisations to access the funding where they cannot contribute matching dollars themselves, which is often the case with small, country community groups.

As a regional MP—a country MP—I have seen firsthand the enormous benefit these programs bring to our rural communities. I would like to mention some of the projects in the Calare electorate that have received funding over three rounds under the National Stronger Regions Fund. Firstly, $747,000 was provided for the redevelopment of the CareWest Community Connection Centre in Orange. This new facility was officially opened on Monday, 12 December 2016—and what a day it was. This centre provides people with a disability, older people, youth and those seeking social inclusion with a modern, regional hub for connecting them to the community. It includes access to recreational, health and wellbeing facilities and services. It will cater for up to 1,000 people every year. During construction, the project created 83 jobs, and another seven ongoing jobs were also created.

I would like to pay tribute to the vision of Lesa Dunn, who was formerly the community engagement manager at CareWest and one of the key driving forces behind this project; George Blackwell, who is the president of the CareWest board; and Tim Curran, who has been the chief executive officer of CareWest for a decade and provided wonderful leadership. I would also like to mention Sim Madigan, who is the marketing and public relations officer, and the community engagement coordinator, Alicia Price, who took over from Lesa Dunn and saw the project through to its completion.

In addition to that project, Lithgow received over $1.3 million to revitalise its main street and create a vibrant public domain within its central business district. That, again, was a project very warmly received. It certainly encouraged Lithgow Council to move that project along, because everyone is very excited about it.

Bathurst Regional council received $2.5 million for the upgrade of Bathurst Airport. I was out there recently with the federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, and we inspected the airport. Again, the community is very excited. It is going to make a real difference when big events such as the Bathurst 1000 is on. At the moment there is a limit on how many planes can land there for events like that simply because they do not have the capacity on the tarmac and the aprons to cater for them.

Bathurst Regional Council also received $965,000 for the construction of a rail museum at the Railway Institute site on Havannah Street. Again, this is a project with huge community support. It has been widely welcomed, particularly by people like John Hollis, who is the chair of Rail Action Bathurst and was instrumental in getting the Bathurst Bullet connected to the railway that goes to Sydney. It was very warmly received.

In addition, Lithgow has received $545,000 for the upgrade of its iconic Blast Furnace Park. We had Senator Fiona Nash out there late last year to make that formal announcement. It is going to help revitalise that section of Lithgow and be a true community asset.

Those are just a few examples I have given today which demonstrate the value of this funding program. I commend the motion to this chamber.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs Wicks ): Is there a seconder for this motion?

Mr Morton: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.