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Illawarra infrastructure investments receive funding in State Budget but acceleration of funding needed

Release Date: 23/06/2015
The Illawarra Business Chamber says an underlying surplus of $713 million for 2015-16 clearly shows the strength of the NSW economy following five straight years of responsible budget management.
“Economic management has been the cornerstone of this Government and the NSW economy is performing well”, Illawarra Business Chamber CEO, Debra Murphy, said.
“With the State’s Budget in an increasingly strong position, NSW could have benefited from removing the stamp duty on business transactions immediately, instead of at the end of the next financial year.
“A positive budget measure for small business is the allocation of more than $27 million over the next four years to create a Small Business Employment Incentive Scheme which will provide a grant of up to $2000 for non-payroll tax paying small businesses when they hire new employees. This measure is particularly important here in the Illawarra given that our youth unemployment rate still sits at a staggering 17%. 
“The establishment of a scholarship fund for those students undertaking qualifications in technology and growth jobs is applauded by the IBC. In our latest business conditions survey one in four Illawarra businesses indicated that they had difficulty accessing suitably qualified staff despite the higher than average local unemployment rate. The scholarship fund will encourage Illawarra residents to gain skills in the areas that local businesses demand.
“The Illawarra region is the third most popular NSW tourism destination and tourism plays a key role in our local economy. More than $40 million has been set aside to grow regional tourism, which is welcome news for our regional towns that rely heavily on visitors to keep them thriving.
“Overall, the Budget shows the Baird Government is getting on with the job it was elected to do by the electorate in March, but we still need to see more progress with respect to Illawarra infrastructure investments.
 “Wollongong-Sydney road and rail connectivity is worse than similar regional centres, as evidenced in our ‘Linking the Illawarra – improving the region’s transport connectivity’ study. We would like to see a faster allocation of funding to getting the job done.  While we appreciate that studies are required, the Illawarra needs new infrastructure to be mobilised as soon as possible. 
“It is pleasing to see allocations to many key Illawarra infrastructure projects including the M1 (F6) extension planning, Gateway to the South Pinch Points planning, Albion Park Rail Bypass planning and the Berry Bypass.
“However, in our Rebuilding NSW submission we called on the Government to complete the M1 (F6) Extension from Waterfall to St Peters by 2020. Yet 5 years out from the deadline only $1.2 million of the promised $11 million for feasibility studies has been spent.
“We’d like to see the same level of commitment and enthusiasm for the M1 (F6) Extension that the Government has shown other key road projects like WestConnex. 
“Unfortunately the budget contains no commitment to upgrades to resolve the South Coast Line’s structural issues through the Mainline Acceleration project.
“The Government needs to commit to completing engineering and timetabling upgrades to resolve structural issues between Wollongong and Sydney to reduce travel time to 60 minutes.
“The Government now has a great opportunity to use these and other major infrastructure projects to boost youth employment and grow competitive local businesses,” Ms Murphy said.
Media Contact:         Julia Frith 0417 135 858

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