Gunnedah Shire Council has rushed through a six-point list of “critical priorities” ahead of the 2024/25 State Budget in June.

The list includes a focus on health, police, housing, skills, roads and regional grant programs.

With NSW Treasury only accepting submissions until Friday, time was of the essence to finalise Gunnedah’s areas for attention. Top of the list was Gunnedah’s call for the NSW government to deliver the full Gunnedah Hospital redevelopment master plan.

It follows new revelations the government’s budget for the hospital rebuild is at least $30 million short of delivering the masterplan in full.

This comes after it emerged the original $53 million commitment would not deliver all parts of the hospital upgrade as first thought.

Critical parts of the hospital upgrade were scaled back including new chemotherapy and dialysis treatment facilities.

Gunnedah mayor Jamie Chaffey said after many requests from the government about how much the total project would cost, the exact answer was still not clear but the rough estimates were staggering.

“I was shocked to hear they don’t know, but it’s in excess of $30 million still short to build the full masterplan as designed,” Cr Chaffey said. “The $53 million is still there but we know we need another $30 million to build the full master plan as was committed by all MPs but not yet delivered.”

Councillor Robert Hoddle described the hospital situation as “appalling”, especially given the assurances by state election candidates.

“We’re $30 million short and still haven’t turned a sod of soil,” he said.

“I’m pleased this is at the top of the list, because it is absolutely wrong they haven’t funded it when they promised they would and we desperately need it.”

Gunnedah’s second critical priority for the state budget was increased spending for more “front line” police in rural, regional and remote communities most at need.

Cr Juliana McArthur suggested the document include a link to Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data which highlighted the plight of “communities most at need” such as Gunnedah.

Council also reiterated its call for Gunnedah police station to be manned 24 hours a day.

“We’ve seen crime increase in all different categories,” Cr Chaffey said.

“A report out [recently] showed Gunnedah over the last 12 months is eight times higher than the state average … not something we’re proud of.”

He said although the calls for an inquiry into additional police resources had not been heard, their pleas for help would continue.

“We’re not seeing support from the state government calling for an inquiry so there can be recommendations put forward for meaningful change,” Cr Chaffey said.

“It is not unreasonable that the residents of regional, rural and remote NSW communities should expect to have rates of reportable crime no greater than metropolitan residents, to achieve that change is required.”

The third budget priority area related to appropriate funding for NSW government grant programs, specifically those tailored for non-metropolitan areas.

It called for the 2024/25 budget to commit to funding the “same value” for programs such as Stronger Country Communities Fund and Resources for Regions, among others.

Cr Ann Luke suggested an amendment in the wording to account for inflation so potential future funding would at least maintain its value in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Gunnedah council’s remaining three areas for attention related to budget priorities raised last year prior to the NSW Labor government handing down its first budget since being elected to office.

All points are also listed in the Country Mayors Association Budget Priorities document including funding to deliver the Building Country Homes Program (housing), Building Country Trades Program (skills) and Fixing Country Pinch Points Program (roads and transport).

Gunnedah deputy mayor Rob Hooke said all points raised by council in relation to budget funding highlighted how the state government had “torn the heart out” of rural and regional NSW.

“I hope they listen but I fear they won’t take any notice,” Cr Hooke said.

“The community needs to know we are struggling – our budget is sound at the moment but without funding sources, which have been drying up for 14 months, if some of it’s not restored, we’re going to be in desperate financial trouble into the future.”

Cr Chaffey said it was time the government delivered more support.

“I believe now is the time that we must endorse priorities on behalf of our community, that must be funded to ensure that we are not held back from achieving all the opportunities that are before us now and will provide for the future generations to come,” he said.

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