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  • Writer's pictureDave Layzell MP

State Matters - 18 September 2023


MEMORIAL SERVICE DATE


THE COMMUNITY will have the opportunity to gather and remember those impacted by the June long weekend Greta bus tragedy at a public memorial service next month.


A ticket is not required to attend the memorial at Singleton Showground on Saturday 21 October from 11am, with the event to also be livestreamed on the NSW Government website www.nsw.gov.au.


The Hunter Valley Bus Tragedy Fund, administered by Rotary, has now closed after generous donors raising close to $1.5 million, including $100,000 from the NSW Government, with the funds to assist those affected.


I was pleased to participate in Parliament’s discussion on the crash last week, which supported sending condolences to families and communities affected, and recognised the Emergency Services workers and all other workers and volunteers that assisted during the response and recovery of that event.


NSW BUDGET 2023


A significant week for NSW with the state budget for the 2023-24 financial year handed down on Tuesday.


Pre-budget announcements have included Opal fares being subject to the annual price rise from October 16, by an average of 3.7 per cent – the seniors and pensioners daily cap of $2.50 will continue but half-price Opal trips after eight journeys will end.


More than $1.4 billion will be invested over four years in new and upgraded regional schools with planning to begin for future regional schools, including Huntlee.


The total fund for road repairs expands to $670 million with a new Regional Emergency Road Repair Fund to deliver $390 million to regional and rural councils for urgent road and pothole repairs.


A new $334 million Regional Roads Fund will enable councils to build new roads and roundabouts, replace or repair old bridges and improve safety at crash blackspots in rural and regional areas with projects to include improvements along the Golden Highway.


COAL ROYALTY CHANGE


Coal royalties will increase by 2.6 per cent from July next year after the Minns NSW Government decided on an update to make sure the state earns a fair return for its resources under modern market conditions.


It will replace the emergency domestic coal cap and reservation measures initiated last December under the Energy Price Relief Plan agreement between the Albanese federal government, the States and Territories.


The coal royalty changes will reportedly improve NSW’s budget position by more than $2.7 billion over the four years to 2028, with funds redirected to the state’s essential services, as well as cost-of-living relief for families.


Last week, I reminded Parliament that more than 50 per cent of that revenue comes from mines in the Singleton and Muswellbrook council areas.


I am very concerned about the future of the Resources for Regions program and any change to funding arrangements for our communities, which are entitled to a share of royalties as part of the social licence for the mines to operate.


MAKE THE CALL


The NSW Police Rural Crime Prevention Team is encouraging farmers and landholders to make the call and report crime.


If you are a victim of crime - any theft, any time - call the Police Assistance Line (PAL) on 131 444 so Police can investigate.


To report suspect or actual criminal activity information, call Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000.


Investigators liaising with landholders do provide advice on target hardening measures and the importance of reporting crime early to police.


By making a report it will help solve crime as well as making the community safer for everyone.


EARLY EDUCATION PLAN


A NSW Government push to boost preschool education will provide $500 in fee relief to the families of up to 64,000 children.


More than $100 million will be invested in early learning and enhance the sector’s workforce.


The package of initiatives also includes $20 million for a Flexible Initiatives trial to expand access to early childhood education and care, extended hours and assist parents re-entering the workforce.


Capital funds of $20 million will support new not-for-profit services in high-growth and regional communities, backed by $22 million to recruit and retain essential early childhood workers.


COMMUNITY FUNDING AVAILABLE


Applications open this week for the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation’s next funding round.


Eligible projects will provide improved health outcomes for the most disadvantaged, isolated, and vulnerable in our community; improved life outcomes for marginalised and at-risk young people; and, provide improved social wellbeing for the most disadvantaged or marginalised in our community.



And, round one of the 2023-24 Mount Thorley Warkworth Voluntary Planning Agreement Funding Program is open giving residents, groups and organisations with ideas for sustainable community projects to benefit Bulga and surrounds an opportunity to have them funded.


Applications close 16 October, so apply at: www.singleton.nsw.gov.au/mtwvpa


EDUCATION SUPPORT


Recruitment and retention of health workers will be bolstered by the NSW Government’s commitment of more than $120 million towards health worker study subsidies.


The subsidies over five years will support 12,000 healthcare students with new students to receive scholarships of $4,000 per year whilst existing students receive a one-off payment of $8,000.

Students can apply for support from January next year and must be willing to make a five-year commitment to the NSW public health system.


The scholarship program will be open to all healthcare degrees.


TEACHERS PAYRISE


Savings of $1.4 billion identified within the Department of Education will fund the NSW Government’s teachers wage increases.


The state’s 95,000 teachers will benefit as their pay scale is restructured into seven steps ensuring a more rapid progression.


From October 9, starting salaries increase from $75,791 to $85,000 and salaries for those at the top of the scale increase from $113,042 to $122,100.


An immediate freeze was last week placed on the recruitment of non-teaching executive positions while the department reviews school staffing arrangements.


ROAD SAFETY WARNING


Police across the Upper Hunter Electorate have asked motorists to stop and think about their behaviour on the region’s roads following several recent incidents.


Port Stephens-Hunter Police District held Operation Rural Roads in Dungog earlier this month with over 1,600 Random Breath Tests and 34 Random Drug Tests conducted.


There were two positive tests and a further seven drivers were issued with Infringement Notices for traffic-related offences and vehicle defects.


And, Hunter Valley Police District is warning those feeling the need for speed on your motorbike, to take it to a racetrack.


Highway Patrol officers reminding riders that the streets are no place for dangerous riding on registered or unregistered motorbikes.


If you are aware of people who regularly engage in this sort of conduct then contact Police by going directly to your local police station or call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.


SPRING CLEANING TIPS


Emergency services are asking us to do some spring cleaning and even providing checklists of the chores we should concentrate on.


Fire and Rescue NSW’s suggestions include clearing the lint filter in clothes dryers, dust and check the smoke alarm, replace damaged or frayed electrical cords, roll and store electric blankets, degrease the oven and stovetop, check and maintain the barbecue also organize and declutter the garage.


The State Emergency Service wants NSW to ‘Do your bit, get storm fit!’


Storm Season is between October and March, so the spring clean tips are to trim branches, clean gutters, check the roof, clean drains, check insurance and make an emergency kit.


Preparing your home for storms is essential, so check-in at;

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