Thursday, October 2, 2008

If Sydney Is Struggling, Where Does That Leave The Rest Of The State?

Today’s report that that the New South Wales Government can’t afford to keep the City of Sydney running might sound like a sensationalist tabloid headline, but the fact is that New South Wales is in real trouble. The growth of Sydney is just one of many factors weighing upon the Government, but is a factor which has apparently been underestimated. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that population growth due to immigration means that an additional 900 000 homes will be required in Sydney by 2031. That’s one third more than predicted just three years ago.

Of course the problem is not just finding the additional housing for all those people, but providing the health, transport, education, and utilities infrastructure to service them. Morris Iemma and Michael Costa could at least see the problem, but ultimately were powerless to fix it. The former Premier and his Treasurer promised a $140 billion infrastructure program, which certainly sounded good, but like so many other promises made by the New South Wales Labor Government over the past dozen years is turning out to be nothing more than hot air.

The new Premier Nathan Rees, confronted by the double whammy of inheriting the mess along with the international financial meltdown now unfolding, really hasn’t got a hope in hell of turning things around before he confronts an election in 2011. Nevertheless, the attempt to pick up the pieces is underway, with the first step to be the mini budget in five weeks time. The Herald report was prompted by the Premier’s remarks about the pointlessness of making promises that can’t be delivered, which would seem to indicate that a great deal of the previously announced infrastructure plans is likely to get the chop.

Now, while things might look grim for the City of Sydney, I wonder how much worse is the picture likely to be for the rest of the state. This government has been notorious for neglecting regional New South Wales in favour of Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. Given that local councils around the state have also been unable to fund infrastructure needs, and now have been revealed to have invested rate-payers funds in worthless Wall Street paper, it is likely that regional New South Wales will suffer even greater neglect.

The difference is that while the regional areas are often ignored, Sydney makes the front page.

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