While the 2019-20 NSW budget talks a lot about roads, drought relief, education, healthcare and business support – we wanted to highlight some of the key impacts for councils, for 2019-20. Please note that some of these announcements are not new and some still lack details or clear funding amounts.

General Funding and Restart NSW

The NSW Government has allocated approximately $1.5 billion to NSW Local Government, a slight increase on last year. Support has been allocated to Restart NSW grants and support for local councils to deliver infrastructure and services that provide targeted benefits to local communities, including repairing and upgrading local roads and airports, and providing sporting facilities and parks.

The Government established the Restart NSW Fund in 2011 to enable the funding and delivery of high-priority infrastructure projects. Restart NSW is forecast to reach $33.3 billion by 30 June 2019. Of the $33.3 billion of inflows into Restart NSW, $24.8 billion has been committed to specific projects and programs, representing an increase of 10.6 per cent since the 2018 19 Budget. Of the remaining balance, $8.3 billion has been reserved to enable further project development and assurance processes prior to final funding decisions. Restart NSW has funded 650 commitments to local governments and non-government organisations, 210 of which have already been delivered. The Government has targeted 30 per cent of Restart NSW funding to regional areas outside the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, over the life of the fund.

Further information on Restart NSW is provided in Budget Paper No. 2 Infrastructure Statement.

Safe and Secure Water Program

The $1.0 billion Safe and Secure Water Program was established to fund eligible water and sewerage projects in regional New South Wales from Restart NSW. Safe water sources and sewerage services focusses on support for public health, economic development, and commercial activities.

This program aims to improve regional communities’ access to dependable, clean and safe water supplies and sewerage services. To date, over 45 eligible projects have been funded from Restart NSW. This includes funding for the construction of a 270-kilometre pipeline between the Murray River and Broken Hill to provide water security for local communities, Hay Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Manilla Water Supply System Upgrade.

Investing in regional communities through the Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund

The Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund was established in June 2018 to enable $4.2 billion in proceeds from the State’s share of the sale of Snowy Hydro to be spent on state-building infrastructure across regional New South Wales. This Budget includes new funding to progress priority areas, including:

  • An additional $400 million over four years for the Regional Digital Connectivity program (bringing the total to $518.8 million), which will provide mobile black spot towers and data centres to improve internet connectivity, speeds and reliability in the State’s regions.
  • $20 million in 2019-20 to investigate and plan for further Special Activation Precincts.

NSW Generations Fund (NGF)

In late 2018, the State deposited $10 billion into the NGF, with $7 billion from the sale of WestConnex and $3 billion from balance sheet reserves. As the NGF grows, it supports communities through the My Community Project initiative. This will allow communities to have a direct say in what projects get delivered in their local area.

Regional Digital Connectivity program

The Regional Digital Connectivity program, providing mobile black spot towers and data centres to improve internet connectivity, speeds and reliability in regional areas ($400.0 million over four years).

Other Support

Other funding measures mentioned but not detailed, and may be included in the above funding include

  • Strengthening regional communities through grants supporting local tourism and economies.
  • Invigorating communities with grants for various sports centres and clubs in NSW.
  • Providing support for multicultural aged care facilities across the State.
  • Roads to Home program delivering local road upgrades in collaboration with Local Aboriginal Land Councils in remote communities to improve access and increase economic opportunities.
  • Increasing grants to the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association to enable acquisition of 30 new rescue vehicles.

Making it Easier to do Business

The budget also announced measures to help businesses that want to set up and thrive, including:

  • Continuing to implement payroll tax cuts, progressively raising the payroll tax threshold to $1.0 million by 2021-22, providing tax relief for those small to medium sized businesses.
  • The Easy to do Business program will reduce the time it takes to either open or expand a small business by cutting red tape. It will be easier for small businesses to interface with local councils and government bodies in five sectors (cafes, housing construction, clothing retail, printing and road freight). This program will receive funding of $27 million in expenses and $22 million in capital for 2019-20
  • The Energy Switch program has been extended to small businesses, helping them gain access to lower cost energy providers.
  • In February 2019 the Government launched a major procurement policy to help small, medium and regional enterprises to do business with Government. The policy encourages Government agencies to prioritise small and medium businesses when considering suppliers.

Office of Local Government

We also note that the Office of Local Government is to be abolished and functions transferred to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment from 1 July 2019.