John Barilaro's new plan to carve-up regional $500m, avoid ‘beauty contest’

THE biggest cut of state government’s $1.3 billion regional budget feast is ready to be plated and served - and the bloke in the chef’s apron says small towns will enjoy how it’s been carved up.  

Deputy Premier John Barilaro - expected in Griffith on Thursday with Premier Gladys Berejiklian - says the $500 million Growing Local Economies Fund will not be divvied-up by the usual round-by-round basis (“It becomes a bit of a beauty contest in a way”) but allocated to reflect a combination of population and potential growth.

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The NSW Nationals leader says this new model will ensure an even playing field across the state’s 34 economic zones, instead of the cash pooling around the usual big country centres.

“What usually happens is we go, hey, here’s a bucket of money, you should apply, and we see who wins and who loses,” Mr Barliao said. “What we find is while big centres such as Wagga or Tamworth get their fair share, smaller regions miss out.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro says the cash is not just for large towns.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro says the cash is not just for large towns.

“So this is their guaranteed bucket of money. We are viewing each of these local economies as unique places which present different opportunities for investment. And we’ve put a minimum threshold in so the money is actually worthwhile.”

Mr Barilaro said the Growing Local Economies Fund has its sights set on regional road, rail, electricity and water upgrades, but will also consider infrastructure to unlock the potential of regional businesses, and jobs.

“This fund will identify the competitive advantages, or the potential strong suits of the individual regions, and then invest in those sectors, whether it be in tourism, agriculture or manufacturing.”

Mr Barilaro said government had also set “another couple of hundred million” aside to come in over the top and do more.

“We want to start the process with this fund first and see where we end up.”

Mr Barilaro said the idea was for local industry and organisations to work alongside Regional Development Associations, regional council groups, and local MPs to get identify where their allocated cash will go, and how to leverage it with further grants and potential federal funding. 

“We will be working with individual towns to help them identify the right projects.”