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The Upper Hunter is being taken for granted

Enough is enough. It’s time the O’Farrell Government started to take the needs of Upper Hunter residents seriously and stopped taking us for granted. In 2011-12, the mining industry contributed $1.486 billion to the State’s coffers, the bulk of which comes from Muswellbrook and Singleton Local Government areas, yet all we are promised is a share in $160 million dollars through the Resources for Regions program.

The fact that we’ve only received a share in $10 million since the March 2011 State election is startling enough, but when we look at the sleight of hand approach to delivering that money, we can’t help but be astounded. Resources for Regions was supposed to fund much needed local infrastructure in mining-affected areas however Muswellbrook has seen its paltry share spent on State infrastructure.

There’s no secret that Muswellbrook Hospital is in dire need of an upgrade that will cost somewhere in the vicinity of $60 million. NSW Health says this. Hunter New England Health says it. In fact, NSW Health says it should be a priority in the health budget. An even higher priority is the upgrade of the hospital’s ailing emergency department which we’re told will cost around $12 million. Yet only $4 million has been allocated and not from the health budget, but from Resources for Regions which should be spent on local roads and facilities.

This brings us to the real travesty – the lack of aged care facilities. Muswellbrook hospital is home to 18 high-dependency, aged care beds, all of which occupy space on the hospital’s ground floor where the new emergency department is slated to be built. Our local member George Souris has promised that no resident requiring aged care will be relocated outside the local government area, yet no concrete plans for a promised new aged care facility are in place. We’re told that current aged care patients will be accommodated somewhere within the hospital, but what about the ever increasing requirements of an ageing population?

It’s time this Government stopped treating what they think is a “safe seat” as a cash cow. Sooner or later the cow needs to be fed.

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