REVISIONS to the Resources for Regions program would give 24 eligible councils a minimum of $1 million each a year, with the rest of a $50-million allocation weighted towards the "most mining affected communities", Deputy Premier John Barilaro said yesterday.
But Labor said the government had short-changed regions, with shadow resources minister Paul Scully saying the government had acknowledged during Budget Estimates in March that it had only spent $26 million in the previous round, and that the remaining $24 million would "go into the next round".
Mr Barilaro said the government had heard the message from mining communities and organisations and the revamped program would provide for a broader range of projects and be easier to apply for.
Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen said the changes would help create jobs and drive growth.
"Knowing how much funding will be available and having the flexibility to work within that funding envelope will allow councils to confidently put forward projects that best support our local communities in Upper Hunter," Mr Johnsen said.
Singleton Council praised the changes, saying staff were already looking at projects to fund.
Mayor Sue Moore said the Singleton local government area was the top contributor of mining royalties in the state, Mayor Su Moore said, sending an average $340 million a year to Treasury coffers.
The Budget Estimates program that Mr Scully referred to included an exchange between Labor MLC Mick Veitch and the executive director of Regional NSW, Chris Hanger, from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
Referring to money that had gone unspent, Mr Veitch asked: "It is still $24 million that is being allocated for this next round?"
Mr Hanger responded: "That was the funding that was left over from the last round. One of the reasons that we needed to do a review is-and this may take a bit of time, just to talk through the structure of Resources for Regions.
"It is a restart program. It requires a benefit-cost ratio above one.
"What we have found is: as the program has continued, the number of projects to achieve that benefit-cost ratio above one has diminished.
"You find that many of the projects in the earlier rounds were successful and program rounds were fully subscribed. We are now finding that that is not the case.
"What that tells us is, we obviously need to look at the program design.
"Last round legislative requirements for restart are that it has a positive economic benefit and that is measured by a benefit-cost ratio. Any project that was able to achieve that was funded but, as you have indicated, there was a shortfall so not all the projects that were submitted were able to achieve that."
When Mr Veitch asked whether the money would be "topped up", Mr Hanger said: "No, it will go into the next round."
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