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Mining affected towns shortlisted for funding

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Contenders for round two of the New South Wales Government’s Resources for Regions funding have today been named with 19 projects competing for funding.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional Infrastructure & Services Andrew Stoner today announced a shortlist which will see up to $78 million made available in the second round.

The 19 applications, worth a combined $119.6 million were chosen from a field of 58 applications worth more than $290 million.

Stoner said the shortlisted projects were selected by an independent panel for their capacity to boost economic growth and productivity, ease infrastructure bottlenecks and support mining affected communities.

Split across two rounds, the funding will be allocated for infrastructure projects in eligible mining affected communities including Cobar, Lithgow, Mid-Western, Muswellbrook, Narrabri, Newcastle, Singleton and Wollongong.

In Cobar round two projects include a $2.5 million upgrade for the airport, $2.1 million upgrade for the town’s sewerage works and another $10.3 million for water pipe maintenance.

Lithgow is vying for $10 million to replace a waste water treatment plant.

While Muswellbrook has applied for a total of $36.2 million to upgrade roads and improve education, childcare, and health services.

Newcastle, Singleton and Narrabri communities have also submitted proposals.

Proponents are now being invited to submit a full application for final evaluation which will include further economic appraisals.

Earlier this month the New South Wales Minerals Council called on the State Government to reconsider the eligibility criteria for what constitutes a mining affected area under its Resources for Regions funding program.

Currently the RfR program filters investment into the State’s mining regions based on royalties raised in the local government area or mining truck movements.

The Minerals Council is proposing mining employment be added as an assessment indicator, saying it will ensure more mining affected communities receive funding to support infrastructure projects.

“NSWMC suggests that once an LGA has reached a threshold number of employees, or percentage of regional employment generated directly and indirectly by mining, it should be considered to be mining affected,” Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee stated.

Since being introduced in 2012 mining communities like Muswellbrook and Singleton in the state’s Hunter Valley have received $26.5 million in funding for hospital upgrades, road improvements and streetscape renewals.

But other areas affected by mining miss out on funding as they do not meet the current eligibility criteria, the Minerals Council explains.

“Examples of ineligible LGAs include communities such as Cessnock, Parkes, Maitland, Broken Hill, Gunnedah and Lake Macquarie - all communities with a significant mining workforce,” it said.

“In Maitland and Cessnock, for example, more than one in every three employees is supported by mining, but these areas are not able to apply for additional infrastructure funding through the program.”

Stoner said the State Government is committed to supporting infrastructure projects in mining affected communities, but only if they meet the set criteria.

“Further to this, the criteria determining which communities are eligible for the 2014-15 program is under review,” he said.

Successful projects are expected to be announced within the next few months.

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