The 380,000 residents of Bayside and Georges River Council areas have been locked out from any share of the $5 billion WestInvest fund even though they have endured the harshest lockdowns conditions and traffic chaos from the M5 East toll, Kogarah MP and NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns said.
Last week the State Government announced the WestInvest fund that will come for the $11.1 billion sale of its residual 49 per cent stake in WestConnex.
WestInvest will allocate $3 billion for parks and green space, infrastructure, schools, cultural facilities, revitalising high streets, and clearing local traffic.
The remaining $2 billion will be reserved for high priority projects to be developed in consultation with local communities.
The 15 LGAs receiving the government cash are Blacktown, the Blue Mountains, Burwood, Camden, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Hawkesbury, Hills, Liverpool, Parramatta, Penrith, Strathfield and Wollondilly.
But the government could not explain why Bayside or Georges River, both also LGAs of concern and the areas massively impacted by the M5 East toll, were excluded in any share of the fund, Mr Minns said.
"The two areas that will be excluded from the fund are Georges River and Bayside," Mr Minns said.
"Two communities representing 380,000 people that have been locked out of the economic support they need to rebuild after the most toughest and extensive restrictions of any community in the entire country during the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.
"This economic package looks as if it's been written on the back of a cocktail napkin. It needs to be urgently reviewed by the NSW Treasurer.
"The people of George's River and Bayside suffered as a result of the economic lockdown, the COVID-19 lockdown.
"Their businesses have been crippled as a result, unemployment has risen and the whole point of the fund announced by the NSW Treasurer several days ago was to lift these communities up and make sure they were not disadvantaged as a result of the lockdown.
"We're calling for an urgent change to the WestInvest criteria to make sure the people of Georges River and Bayside are not left behind, and that they're not further discriminated against by a government that is intent on a two-speed economy where some people are left out of the state's future."
Mr Minns said that under questions from Labor to the NSW Parliamentary Accountability Committee hearing on Thursday representatives from the NSW Government:
- Did not know where the money will come from;
- Were unclear whether it would even be new money, instead of money already in the budget for existing projects;
- Had no idea of what projects will be included, or what the eligibility criteria will be;
- Could not guarantee that any of the projects will be new, instead of going to existing projects already announced;
- Have no estimate of the number of jobs this fund may create;
- Could not explain why the chosen LGAs were selected, or why Bayside or Georges River, (both also LGAs of concern), were excluded;
- Do not know which Minster will be responsible for the fund;
- Set up the fund without involving the NSW Chief Economist in any way; and
- Could not guarantee that the fund would be governed any better than the Stronger Communities Fund, which the Premier has openly admitted was used for pork-barrelling Government-held seats.
"Rebuilding West and South West Sydney requires a comprehensive economic recovery package that helps small business, workers and families" Mr Minns said.
"Building schools, repairing roads, properly resourcing hospitals, and ensuring there is green space available does not require its own special fund. This should be bread and butter for a state government - that's the day job.
"And to add insult to injury, they have left out two council areas with no explanation as to why - even though they have been subject to the harsh lockdowns and restrictions."