NSW Shadow Treasurer Ryan Park and three senior NSW Labor MPs have backed calls for a NSW Audit Office review of the controversy-plagued Resources for Regions fund after questions about the allocation of more than $200 million.
Mr Park, Shadow Industry and Resources Minister Adam Searle, Shadow Minister for the Hunter Kate Washington and Shadow Regional Development Minister David Harris wrote to NSW Auditor General Margaret Crawford on Tuesday after a Newcastle Herald analysis of allocations since 2012 showed the lion’s share of funding to the Nationals seat of Barwon.
This is despite its three mining areas contributing only a fraction of royalties to the state when compared with Singleton and Muswellbrook. It is also despite a 2011 NSW Government report that showed the two Upper Hunter areas received significantly less state funding per capita than any other area. The report provided evidence of the need for a state fund to provide infrastructure to mining-affected communities.
The Labor shadow ministers told Ms Crawford that only three of 30 Resources for Regions projects on the Department of Industry’s website went to non-Coalition electorates. More than 90 per cent of the scheme’s funds went to Coalition seats, the majority held by the National Party.
“A number of successful projects appear to have only tangential links to addressing the impact of mining activity such as road repair or bridge upgrades,” the shadow ministers wrote.
Independent Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper wrote to Ms Crawford this week requesting a review after his seat failed to receive funding under a latest round announced in January. Lake Macquarie has not received any funding under Resources for Regions, despite being listed fifth-highest royalty generator in the 2011 report that launched the scheme. Wallsend has also not received any funds, despite generating royalties, and Cessnock has only received one allocation for a joint project with Singleton.
The seat of Barwon, held by Nationals Party MP Kevin Humphries since 2007, has received $57.45 million from Resources for Regions since 2012, despite its three mining areas of Cobar, Narrabri and Broken Hill generating only a fraction of the billions of dollars in royalties contributed by the Upper Hunter.
Mr Park said the community was “now questioning if this has been a massive pork-barrelling exercise for Nationals electorates”.
Ms Washington said the community needed to understand why the state’s mining capital of the Hunter was missing out on funding. The government needed to “demonstrate the funding process is transparent and free of political interference”.