The spending on NSW rural roads has dominated the major projects budget.
The spending on NSW rural roads has dominated the major projects budget.

Rural dirt roads get major cash splash

BUILDING up the bush will be a key battleground at the March state election, with both sides of politics focused on injecting money into regional NSW infrastructure.

The bush building blitz will be major part of the Liberal/Nationals' election campaign while in the city they try to distance themselves from overdevelopment and infrastructure headaches, like the light rail.

Since 2011 the Coalition has spent $31.9 billion on improving regional roads and by 2023 every major highway in NSW is expected to be completely sealed and weather proof.

Excluding Sydney motorways, the spending on NSW roads in rural areas has dominated the government's major projects budget. Over the last four financial years $7.2 billion has been spent on major road projects in regional NSW, while $3.4 billion has been spent in Sydney.

Since 2011 more than 50 hospitals in regional areas have either been built or upgraded, including $534 million for Tweed Valley Hospital, $452 million for Wagga Wagga Base Hospital, $313 million for Lismore Hospital and $224 million for Griffith Base Hospital.

Over the same period $1.6 billion has been spent on upgrading 52 regional schools, and $400 million has been put towards improving country railway lines.

On top of this investment the government also administers the $1.6 billion Regional Growth Fund, which over the last 18 months has funded 1,369 projects worth $933 million.

If elected on March 23 the Liberal/Nationals will continue with this spending strategy and claim that by 2021 they will have spent a whopping $50 billion on regional NSW infrastructure.

NSW Labor are also focused on the bush and if elected will commit $10.5 million to halve Dungog Shire Council's road infrastructure backlog as well as committing to review road classification across NSW.

Gladys Berejiklian announcing road upgrades in western Sydney.
Gladys Berejiklian announcing road upgrades in western Sydney.


Labor leader Michael Daley recently took aim at the Berejiklian government for failing to meet the 30 per cent requirement for the Restart NSW infrastructure fund to go toward rural NSW.

He cited an October Auditor General report which found just 17.2 per cent of this fund was allocated to regional areas last financial year.

Both the Coalition and Labor have also pledged to spend the $4.1 billion coming to NSW from the Snowy Hydro scheme on regional NSW projects.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said people in rural NSW were all benefiting from the investments the Coalition has made.

"We don't live in a city where there are cranes in the sky - in regional NSW we measure progress by kilometres of sealed roads, more phones in mobile coverage and water pipelines running as far as the eye can see," he told The Daily Telegraph.

"For the first time ever in regional NSW money is not our problem, and the NSW Nationals are making sure we work harder and think smarter about how we spend it."

Labor's shadow treasurer Ryan Park said the Berejiklian government was letting the people of regional NSW down.

"This is a government that focuses more on Sydney and building stadiums rather than rural and regional NSW," he told The Daily Telegraph.

"We will prioritise the $4.1 billion (from the Snowy Hydro) on infrastructure such as schools, hospitals … so infrastructure that creates and supports jobs in the regions."