By Tina Perinotto and Andrew Starc

8 June 2010 – What’s this?  A NSW Premier –  and her Treasurer –  that seem to have not only listened to the litany of complaints about public transport and a host of other environmental or sustainability issues, but actually coughed up some serious funding to deal with them?

Must be an election coming on. Certainly that was the incredibly insightful comments emanating from the NSW Opposition in this afternoon’s radio news.

But even with an election scheduled for next year, there was some very good news for deep seated issues such as transport, with funding for more buses, some rail improvements and the biggest bling factor of them all – (the start of) extension of the light rail system to Dulwich Hill which should please the inner westies enormously.

There were drips and sometimes splashes of funding for a huge range of other environmental initiatives such as more water tanks for households, energy audits for small businesses and vote winners such as planting more trees.

And even a type of planning initiative: the elimination of stamp duty entirely for people over 65. This is designed to stimulate a re-engineering of suburbs where one or two elderly people rattle around in houses that are far too big for them and could be much more efficiently deployed in housing-starved NSW.

But The Greens were not so easily swayed by the Christmas-style bounty. Embedded in the transport spend for instance was a whopping $10 billion for roads, according to the Greens MP John Kaye.

He said, another  $25 million in the budget was allocated for “clean coal” – a misnomer in any greenie’s language.

The Greens also criticised the massive $29,000 savings possible in stamp duty for first home buyers on top of the $7000 for first home buyers grants. This not-so-small stocking filler would go straight to the bottom line of the developers and the vendors, forcing up housing prices again for everyone, Dr Kaye said.

It was a budget for the “big end of town” and the cost would be borne by “real cuts to important areas of education and community services.

“The massive $2.8 billion being sunk into major capital works on roads dwarfs the $655 million slated for development of the rail network in 2010/11.

Following are highlights from the 2010 NSW Budget.

Transport

Around $1.1 billion for bus services and a “record $3.2 billion for rail services” to include:

  • $278 million to continue construction of the South West Rail Link
  • $303.9 million in continued funding for Rail Clearways projects
  • $30 million for design and planning for the Western Express rail service
  • $55 million to start construction on the Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill Light Rail
  • extension following the Environmental Assessment process, as well as undertake pre-construction work on the CBD Light Rail extension
  • $167 million on the Commuter Car Park Program, as part of the initiative to create 7000 extra car spaces at stations across the rail network.

Included are proposals for better links between modes of transport, new transport interchanges and building new commuter car parks across Sydney, the Illawarra, the Central Coast and the Hunter.

And then there is the website: $6 million for a 131500.com website with better mapping to plan trips.

The target is 28 per cent of commuters travelling to work by public transport by 2016.

Ferries

Sydney Ferries will receive $84.7 million to continue to improve services and for  concessions.

Social housing

Social housing will be targeted with $2.6 billion to deliver housing for about 315,000 people, nearly  4700 crisis accommodation places for nearly 40,000 people and financial assistance for 75,000 private renters and homebuyers.

Environment

$1.39 billion on “programs to protect and improve the NSW environment,” including:

  • An estimated $21.3 million for continuing household rebates for rainwater tanks, climate-friendly hot water systems, dual flush toilets and the removal and recycling of old fridges
  • $22.7 million for the Home Power Savings Program which will provide home energy assessments and assistance with refits for more than 80,000 low-income households
  • $11.8 million to provide energy audits and retrofits to support up to 2,500 small businesses
  • $11.7 million for water and energy efficiency measures in schools
  • $3.4 million for water and energy efficiency support for public housing tenants
  • $78.8 million for other programs to boost existing efforts of industry, government and households to use water and energy more efficiently and reduce their utility bills.
  • $19.1 million will support local councils to conduct estuary, coastal and floodplain management planning and mitigation, with a new focus on preparing for sea level rise
  • $1.6 million to regional councils for flood mitigation works
  • $23.2 million to 13 Catchment Management Authorities for landscape restoration and $41.5 million to deliver record frontline services
  • An additional $4.1 million will be invested to deliver on key state plan natural resource management priorities
  • $3.5 million will be invested in satellite imagery to continue improvements to native vegetation and environmental monitoring
  • $5.6 million to purchase water licences from willing sellers to restore inland river systems.

Other environment related items include:

  • $97 million to protect river red gum forests and woodlands
  • $2 million to implement the Private Native Forestry Code including training and accreditation for industry and landholders
  • $19.5 million for urban sustainability and urban waterways grants to local councils working in partnership with business and the community
  • $10 million for waste and sustainability programs to implement the NSW Government’s waste strategy
  • $6.3 million in new annual grants awarded to community groups, councils, schools, Aboriginal organisations, registered training organisations, lead environmental community groups, state agencies and research bodies
  • $1.9 million for growth centres programs, both for the purchase of land for conservation reserves and for the establishment of biobanking agreements on land within proximity to the growth centres in western Sydney.

National parks and reserves:

  • $58.6 million for managing fire, pest animals and weeds
  • $25.8 million for the maintenance of essential infrastructure to facilitate management of, access to and enjoyment of the parks and reserve system by the community
  • $5.8 million for the continuing upgrade of essential public infrastructure in the Kosciuszko National Park.

Water Infrastructure

More than $702 million will be invested in water infrastructure works across Sydney, the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains to increase recycling, reduce water leaks and sewer overflows, provide sewer connections to outlying villages and improve water supply reliability, including:

  • $9.9 million to complete the $209 million Replacement Flows Project at St Marys
  • $11.5 million for recycled water infrastructure across greater Sydney
  • $134 million for water, wastewater and recycled water infrastructure to service new developments, including the South West and North West Growth Centres
  • $68 million to deliver new sewerage infrastructure under the Priority Sewerage Program
  • $166 million to improve water system performance and reduce leaks

Stamp Duty

The NSW Government will eliminate stamp duty for homebuyers aged 65 and over and those that purchase pre-construction, off the plan dwellings in an effort to encourage empty-nesters to downsize to smaller homes and help regenerate the state’s construction industry.

Starting 1 July, the two year, 140 million initiative will apply to anyone buying a home worth up to $600,000.

People aged 65 and over are projected to reap savings of up to $22,490 when they sell their primary place of residence and purchase a newly-constructed home. Those who purchase pre-construction, off the plan home are also expected to save up to $22,490.

Stamp duty will be cut by 25 per cent for people buying a newly-constructed home or at any time during construction, posing a saving of up to $5623.

First home buyers will also be eligible for stamp duty cuts, although the government did not specify the exact amount of the discount. The government projects first home buyers to reap total benefits of up to $29,490, not including continued access to the NSW government-funded $7000 First Home Owners Grant as well as the NSW Home Builder’s Bonus.