THE AUSTRALIAN: NSW power sale to fund water relief for bush

The NSW government is set to announce a $1.25 billion package of measures to help drought-proof the bush and provide clean drinking water and sewerage services to struggling rural and Aboriginal communities.

NSW Deputy Premier Troy Grant will announce funds today to improve water and sewerage services in predominantly Aboriginal communities in Bourke, Brewarrina, Lachlan and Cobar shires.

The money will also fund a $117 million project to improve Broken Hill’s water supply in the short term and a $380m long-term solution. Cowra will also get a $50m pipeline, replacing an open channel.

The package will also fund the first new major dam in NSW in a generation, in the Lachlan Valley catchment in the central west of the state. The government is looking at a site at Cranky Rock near Orange.

Under the plan, the $1bn allocated from the sale of the state’s electricity businesses will be topped up with $250m from the Restart NSW fund, which holds the proceeds from the sale of NSW ports.

Mr Grant said the fund would address challenges facing regional NSW water supplies.

“This funding represents the most significant single investment in regional NSW’s water supplies in the state’s history,” Mr Grant said.

“As part of the Restart NSW funding, $110 million will go towards clearing a backlog of 71 projects in country towns affected by sewerage problems.

“It’s shameful that some of our regional communities are still living with water quality standards akin to Third World countries. Every Australian deserves good quality water supplies and it’s up to government to deliver them.”

The Minister for Natural Resources and Water, Kevin Humphries, said some small towns suffered supply issues and inadequate wastewater treatment. “Some towns have been dealing with these issues for up to 20 years, as they waited for successive governments to stop kicking the can along,” he said.

Yesterday, NSW Farmers decided to support the sale of “poles and wires”, provided one-third of the proceeds was spent in rural and regional areas, a condition to which the government has already agreed.

NSW Farmers Business, Economic and Trade committee chairman Peter Wilson said rural areas were crying out for properly funded infrastructure including roads, rail and schools.

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