THE 2014 NSW Budget released on Tuesday by Treasurer Andrew Constance will address factors from roads, to mental health, to pensioners.
South Coast Road rewards
Roads of the Illawarra and South Coast have also received an injection of funds from the 2014/15 budget.
A total of $185million has been allocated for upgrades on the Princes Highway.
This includes $80million to commence construction of the Foxground and Berry bypass, and $76.5million to complete the Gerringong upgrade between Mount Pleasant and Toolijooa Road.
Also allocated was $10million to continue planning for the upgrade of the Princes Highway between Berry and Bomaderry.
Illawarra commuters could benefit from $11million, including an extra $10million from Restart NSW to advance a feasibility study for the Princes Motorway (F6) between Loftus and St Peters.
Facilitating regional tourism
The government has introduced a new $110million Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund, through Restart NSW, to deliver infrastructure works that “facilitate regional tourism growth in NSW and increase the economic competitiveness of the state”.
Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner said the 2014-15 budget would support the economy and drive job creation by investing in international trade, tourism, major events and small business.
“More than $131million will be invested in tourism, major events and business events across the state, including $58million to secure major events and $47million to support the growth of tourism across the State including in regional NSW and Sydney,” Mr Stoner said.
Commitment to mental health
The government has boasted a boost in spending on mental health care, a record $1.6billion commitment.
Minister for Mental Health Jai Rowell said this was the fourth straight budget to increase mental health funding.
“Our state’s mental health care needs are both complex and ever increasing,” he said.
“This budget provides a firm footing so that the provision of mental health services cater appropriately to emerging areas of need.”
Major mental health projects to attract funding include:
• $27million to meet the demand for additional acute care mental health services together with enhancing sub-acute mental health services, including $1.4million to assist patients overcoming drug issues through the provision of eight new detox beds at Westmead Hospital
• $2million towards the implementation of the state’s first ever eating disorders plan, as part of a $15.2million investment over five years
• $1.8million to fund the ‘LikeMind’ pilot of the fully integrated community-based care for adults living with mental illness in Nepean/Blue Mountains and Western Sydney.
Protecting our most vulnerable
More than $5billion has been allocated to improve services for children and young people in child protection system.
The NSW 2014-15 Budget outlined funding of $5.8billion for child protection services, social housing and caseworkers in effort to “break the cycle of disadvantage”.
Treasurer Andrew Constance said better mobile information technology would free caseworkers from their desks and mountains of paperwork, allowing them to concentrate on helping vulnerable children.
Minister for Family and Community Services, Gabrielle Upton said an additional $500million would be dedicated to child protection.
“Including additional resources to support the transition of out-of home care to the non-government sector, more assistance for caseworkers and a major technology upgrade,” Ms Upton said.
“The ongoing transition of out-of-home care services to non- government organisation will deliver better results for children with complex needs.
“This clearly demonstrates the NSW Governments aims to improve support to our most vulnerable and to improve their social and economic life which, in the process, builds stronger communities.”
Major projects include technological improvements for better caseworker mobility and 73 new case work assistants under the Safe Home For Life initiative.
Pensioners shielded from Federal Budget cuts
In a move to protect pensioners and seniors, the 2014-15 NSW budget includes an additional $107million to continue concessions that were cut in the Federal Budget.
Minister for Ageing John Ajaka said the NSW Liberals and Nationals Government had committed one year’s worth of additional funding to ensure the state’s pensioners and seniors would not bear the brunt of harsh cuts to concessions while representations were made to the Federal Government.
Promising future for new homeowners
New homeowners will be able to get into the housing market sooner with increases to the threshold of the First Home Owners Grant.
It was announced in the 2014-15 NSW Budget that the grant will get a boost of $750,000 an increase of $100,000 from July 1.
Kiama MP Gareth Ward said the move would make “the dream” of owning a home a reality for young families.
“I am pleased that the NSW Government is making it as easy as we can for first-time buyers to get the keys to their new home,” Mr Ward said.
“We are getting on with the job of freeing up land supply while ensuring the financial support is in place for young families entering the market.”
From July 1, the grant will be restricted to Australian citizens and permanent residents.
The grant will also be restricted to one grant per person, per year.
The budget also included changes to the eligibility criteria for the $5000 New Home Grant, introduced on July 1, 2012.
Honouring the ‘‘Gonski agreement’’
This year $14.4billion has been allocated for education, training and early childhood education.
Included is $230million of additional funding across all school sectors as part of the ‘Gonski agreement’ for reforms already underway including Great Teaching, Inspired Learning, Local Schools Local Decisions, the needs based Resource Allocation Model, and the Rural and Remote Education Blueprint for Action,” Mr Ward said.
There will be $347million spent on school maintenance.
In addition, $400million will be spent on capital works upgrading and providing new school facilities.
The budget also provides $2.3billion for vocational education, including $1.86billion for TAFE NSW.
TAFE NSW has a capital program of $77million in 2014-15.
This includes funding for new facilities to meet industry standards, such as a major upgrade to Hunter Institute – Newcastle campus, IT projects and ongoing major capital works.
Spending on early childhood education and care comprises $361million, including funds from National Partnerships.
Preparing for erosion, flood, and natural disasters
The budget includes $26million to be spent helping communities and local councils prepare for floods and coastal erosion.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services Stuart Ayres said another $28.6million has been allocated for the Strategic Disaster Readiness package, as part of the $96million committed in 2012-13.