The Hon John Barilaro is the NSW Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional New South Wales, Minister for Skills and Minister for Small Business. He is also the leader of the Nationals in NSW. In March 2018, the NSW government sold its 58 per cent shareholding of the Snowy Hydro Scheme to the federal government for a total of almost $4.2 billion. That money has now become NSW’s almost $4.2 billion Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund. On Wednesday 24 October, John Barilaro addressed The Sydney Institute to explain how the Legacy Fund would underpin future development in NSW – in particular, much needed development in regional NSW.
THE SNOWY HYDRO LEGACY FUND
I’d like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation who are the traditional custodians of this land. I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present and extend that respect to any Aboriginal people present. I would also like to thank Gerard and Anne for making this possible
On 2 March 2018, the NSW Government sold its 58 per cent shareholding of the Snowy Hydro Scheme to the Federal Government for a total of almost $4.2 billion [$4.154 billion]. It was not an easy decision.
The Snowy Hydro Scheme, in my electorate of Monaro, brings with it a history that is often referred to as the birth of modern Australia. The scheme brought together a workforce of more than 30 nationalities and is testament to multicultural Australia. The work required thousands of skilled and unskilled workers, most of whom were brought from war-ravaged Europe.
The Snowy Hydro Scheme, in my electorate of Monaro, brings with it a history that is often referred to as the birth of modern Australia.
Over the 35 years of construction, the workforce of 100,000 included migrants from countries such as Norway, Germany, Britain, Czechoslovakia, the Baltic States, Hungary, Malta and of course my parents’ birthplace Italy. My parents, Domenico and Anna Mario Barilaro arrived from Italy in 1968 – to a foreign land with no family support and an unfamiliar language, but with a desire for a better life and for the children they hoped would soon follow. And it’s no surprise they chose that part of the world. The great opportunities born from the scheme, and an ever-expanding Canberra region made complete sense.
The legacy of the original Snowy Hydro Scheme is well documented. Snowy Hydro 2.0, in my view will now bestow on Regional NSW its greatest legacy yet.
NSW Government investment since 2011
In our first term of government, we inherited a broken state. We performed the necessary surgery. The budget was in absolute turmoil after 16 years of Labor and we had to balance the books. Today, the NSW economy has been restored to its proper position as the nation’s leading economy.
In our first term of government, we inherited a broken state. We performed the necessary surgery.
We have a first-class infrastructure pipeline that is creating jobs, providing opportunities to skill our young people and ensuring NSW has the roads, pipelines, networks, schools and hospitals it needs to meet current and future demands – no matter where you live.
There are challenges and frustrations when you undertake such large-scale infrastructure work – but people do recognise that some pain is necessary, for the ultimate gain. And regional NSW is at the forefront: 66 per cent of all new jobs created in regional NSW are full time; we have strong employment growth and low unemployment rate of 5.8 per cent. Female employment growth is going gangbusters – accounting for 70 per cent of total regional employment growth. And residential building approvals in regional NSW are at a record high of $4.5 billion over the last year!
Regional NSW is at the forefront: 66 per cent of all new jobs created in regional NSW are full time; we have strong employment growth and low unemployment rate of 5.8 per cent.
In our second term of government we have delivered an investment boom, the likes which has never before been seen in regional NSW. We’ve done this through programs like the $1.3 billion Regional Growth Fund which improves local amenities – and what that looks like is very different to each community across regional NSW.
Sometimes it’s the small things – from fixing the local sporting field through to funding your local art gallery, library or children’s playgrounds. We have been able to step in and do just that through the Stronger Country Communities Fund.
And larger programs such as “Growing Local Economies” Fund – supporting 37 identified regional economies and co-investing with businesses and communities in major infrastructure that secures and grows that local economy.
Only two weeks ago, our Deputy Leader Niall Blair, Minister for Industry and Minister for Regional Water was there to help lay the last pipe that now guarantees that the City of Broken Hill will never run out of that most precious resource – water. We also recently announced the Regional NSW Investment Attraction Package. Relocation grants of up to $10,000 per worker are now available to help attract skilled employees to regional NSW businesses operating in eligible industries.
Niall Blair, Minister for Industry and Minister for Regional Water was there to help lay the last pipe that now guarantees that the City of Broken Hill will never run out of that most precious resource – water.
These will help businesses meet the costs of relocating employees, such as for furniture removal and temporary accommodation for up to three months. Support is also available for businesses relocating to regional NSW and businesses already operating and expanding within regional NSW, to assist with the costs of relocating skilled workers from metropolitan areas to regional NSW.
You cannot provide this support without a strong economy and the money to make it happen. A strong economy also means that we are also able to respond to situations that arise and lend a helping hand to those that most need it. Many of our farmers are going through a tough period. Some have not had rain for more than 18 months and are destocking. That has an impact on communities, not just on farmers themselves but also on the wellbeing and mental health of individuals and families connected to the farms.
Many of our farmers are going through a tough period. Some have not had rain for more than 18 months and are destocking. That has an impact on communities.
Drought also has a devastating impact on our regional towns. Local businesses are under pressure, kids are pulled out of childcare and other after school activities, the entire supply chain slows down. Our healthy surplus meant that when the time came, we had the cash ready to do what we could for those that needed it most.
We will also have the resources to help during the recovery period when that eventually arrives.
Regional NSW 20-year vision
In July this year, the Premier and I announced the NSW Government 20-year economic “Vision for Regional NSW” – or in more practical words, principles for future investment by our government. It is a blue print for future investment. It will direct the NSW Government’s future investment and decision making to promote sustainable, long term economic growth in regional NSW.
Backed by the almost $4.2 billion Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund, regional NSW is poised to take advantage of future opportunities for growth. So, let me briefly take you through some of the vision itself…
Backed by the almost $4.2 billion Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund, regional NSW is poised to take advantage of future opportunities for growth.
It lists 7 key principles:
- Improving travel between regional centres and from cities and international gateways;
- Investing in freight networks which will increase the competitiveness of key regional sectors
- Affordable, reliable and fast internet
- Reliable accessible water and energy
- A skilled labour force that meet current and future needs
- Recognising each region’s natural strengths and competitive advantages, and
- Ensuring our planning system promotes commercial opportunities.
None of these will come as a surprise to you. They are necessary to any modern economy. And we know we need to lift our game to ensure our economy remains strong and resilient. The vision also sets out strategies for action across all seven areas.
We believe place-based measures are the best to boost jobs and investment. By leveraging investment with a region’s natural strengths and competitive advantages we can turbocharge a region.
The Snowy Legacy Fund – nation building programs
The Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund is a once in a generation opportunity for Regional NSW. Unlike the agreement under the Restart Act where Regional NSW receives 30 per cent of all available money, the Liberal and Nationals government has agreed that 100 per cent of the almost $4.2 billion is invested in the regions. It is an incredible win for country NSW.
The Liberal and Nationals government has agreed that 100 per cent of the almost $4.2 billion is invested in the regions.
For those that believe the government has been too focussed on development in our cities and metropolitan areas, I’d like to say to those living in Regional NSW – “It’s your turn”. We will invest this money wisely, in “Nation Building” programs now – so they don’t just sit on paper, but actually become reality. We will invest in visionary projects that will deliver for regional NSW for generations to come. Big-picture programs, big ticket items, that reflect the legacy of the Snowy Hydro project itself.
The next generation of state-building projects
We have developed clear guidelines for the use of Snowy Hydro funds to maximise impact for regional NSW. Projects must align with the Government’s 20-Year Economic Vision for Regional NSW and our other key strategies. Projects must be jointly nominated by the Premier and myself as Deputy Premier, and approved by the Treasurer
Infrastructure NSW will review all project proposals, as the government’s independent advisor. Projects must be in regional NSW or strongly benefit the regions. Only large-scale projects expected to generate significant economic or social benefits will be supported. These funds must be used for state-building infrastructure that goes above and beyond business as usual for the state government.
Only large-scale projects expected to generate significant economic or social benefits will be supported.
In summary, we will focus on four key areas.
Our first priority is water security in priority catchments. The Vision identified water security and safety as a priority for regional infrastructure investment over the long term. Past State Infrastructure Strategies have recognised water security as a critical need for regional NSW and nominated the Hunter, Gwydir, Macquarie, Lachlan, Richmond and Bega as the highest investment priorities in the next decade.
Drought conditions across NSW highlight the importance of investing in water infrastructure at a regional and catchment level to increase community and industry resilience. I have tasked the Department of Industry with developing business cases for the following projects:
- Lostock to Glennies Dam pipeline
- Hunter Water Corporation’s Singleton potable interconnection project
- Lake Rowlands to Carcoar potable pipeline
- Re-regulating structure on the Macquarie River upstream of Gin Gin Weir
Second, we will invest in digital connectivity. The Vision identified digital disruption as a key megatrend and opportunity for regional communities. It committed the government to further investing in regional digital connectivity. There is a significant body of evidence demonstrating that regional NSW performs poorly compared to Sydney in terms of ICT availability, services, and price.
We will invest in digital connectivity. The Vision identified digital disruption as a key megatrend and opportunity for regional communities.
I have tasked the Department of Premier and Cabinet with developing business cases and trials that will explore:
- The development of regional data hubs;
- High capacity “backbone” data links from regional centres to Sydney;
- Connectivity to help agribusinesses to improve their productivity; and
- Better access to data that will help businesses to save money and improve services through technology.
Third, we will improve physical and transport connectivity. The Vision identified improved physical connectivity and transport connections as a priority for future infrastructure investment, including making regional travel faster and easier between regional centres and to metropolitan areas, and improving regional freight networks to global gateways to increase exports.
I have asked the Department of Premier and Cabinet to work with Transport for NSW in investigating faster rail services across a number of key routes. I have also asked Transport for NSW to investigate expanded regional air freight potential.
Fourth, we will establish activation precincts – starting with Parkes. The Vision included a commitment to provide an attractive environment for businesses to invest in regional economies.
In July this year the Premier and I announced that Parkes would be the state’s first “Special Activation Precinct” encompassing land adjacent to the Inland Rail route and the existing East-West rail line. For investors this means access to unencumbered employment lands, streamlined planning approvals, investment in enabling infrastructure, and targeted financial incentives.
In July this year the Premier and I announced that Parkes would be the state’s first “Special Activation Precinct” encompassing land adjacent to the Inland Rail route and the existing East-West rail line.
My Department is leading this work, with a business case underway and other studies due to commence shortly.
The ultimate legacy is a secure future for our regional youth. If asked, however, what the main reason is for attempting such an enormous undertaking it is this – our young people in the regions.
My role and that of my Party is to do whatever we can to provide a secure future for those that will be doing the working and living in our regional towns in generations to come – our Regional Youth.
In Regional NSW, youth suicide is 66 per cent higher than metropolitan areas. Mental Health services compared to the cities can be extremely difficult, particularly the ability to access a specialist in the time needed. ICE consumption is at epidemic levels, with access to rehabilitation services few and far between
Unemployment rates for young people remain far too high with many leaving their home towns to find work in the cities. The net impact on our regional towns is immense. Families lose their sons and daughters, grandparents miss watching their grandchildren grow up and the local town loses the very people it needs to sustain it in the future, who can maintain our values and make those houses into homes.
Families lose their sons and daughters, grandparents miss watching their grandchildren grow up and the local town loses the very people it needs to sustain it in the future
Necessary skills training, which might allow a young person to remain and work can sometimes mean hours of travel to the nearest major centre. That is, of course, if the transport is available and affordable.
So, what can we do? Firstly, we need to recognise that these issues should be front and centre as we approach our third term. We also need to acknowledge that these issues are largely within the remit of the state government and the buck stops with us.
I am not suggesting that programs don’t already exist or that they are not effective. But I do believe we can do better. Prevention is the best cure and one thing is certain – if your town is growing, new industries arriving, local businesses thriving and our education and skills sector training our young people for real jobs that exist locally, we can certainly provide the support needed.
The Snowy Hydro Legacy Lund isn’t just a $4 billion dollar investment in key economic areas, it should also be seen as an investment in our young people in the regions.
My message to regional NSW is “This is your turn.” Regional NSW has many of the ingredients required to capitalise on global mega trends which shaping world economies. We produce quality goods which are in high demand by the Asian middle class. We have world class beaches, national parks and picturesque landscapes which are coveted by tourists and residents alike. And we have the ability to take advantage of new technologies in sectors such as freight and logistics, renewable and ag-tech.
My message to regional NSW is “This is your turn.” Regional NSW has many of the ingredients required to capitalise on global mega trends which shaping world economies.
Many of our regional centres have room to grow, draw in more investment and attract skilled workers, as well as provide job opportunities for our children. We want our communities to have access to sporting and cultural facilities, without compromising a sense of community and connectedness.
By 2038 we could boost the population in regional NSW by more than 170,000 residents, add over 260,000 jobs beyond the growth we already expect and see Gross Regional Product grow to $75 billion – that is $17 billion more than what is currently forecasted.
For the people of Regional NSW, this is your turn. The Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund will ensure Regional NSW continues to receive the investment it needs that makes our communities a great place to live, raise a family, start a business or visit.
I am personally determined to leave a lasting legacy of strong, sustainable and vibrant regional communities. The Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund provides the means to help us get there.
I am personally determined to leave a lasting legacy of strong, sustainable and vibrant regional communities.