Manly Warringah Numbers Game: The NSW Budget



‘The education budget’

It was heralded the education budget, with the state Government revealing a record $18.5 billion in spending on education. 

This included an increase of $1.2 billi in spending on the previous year and encompassed allocations such as $6.7 billion for 190 new and upgraded schools. 

Of that school infrastructure spending, the big winners locally include Killarney Heights Public, Manly Vale Public and Curl Curl North Public. 

In 2019-20, Killarney Heights Public will receive nearly $5.1 million to complete its upgrade project by 2020 and Manly Vale Public has been allocated $2.6 million towards finishing its upgrade this year. 

Meanwhile, close to $30.5 million will be delivered for Curl Curl North’s extensive $41 million upgrade, which will eventually cater for 1,000 pupils.

The Berejiklian government also outlined its commitment to upgrading Brookvale Public School as part of the aforementioned $6.7 billion in school infrastructure spending.

However, the state government has come under significant criticism from education experts and the union for its increase to $1.4 billion in spending for non-government schools this budget. 

This signifies an increase of 15 per cent in recurrent funding for private schools between 2018 – 2020. 

Alongside this, $500 million has been allocated for building extensions or upgrades for non-government schools. 

“This is of particular concern given that non-government schools are already over-funded by NSW in terms of its 20 per cent commitment towards the Gonski School Resourcing Standard (SRS),” Maurie Mulheron, president of NSW Teachers Federation says in a statement. 

“If the NSW government in 2019-20 chose to divert the $100 million funding increase from private schools to targeted public schools, more than 140,000 students would be in public schools fully funded by NSW government to agreed Gonski SRS target levels,” he says. 

Local member for Davidson Jonathan O’Dea, whose electorate received $33.1 million towards education, rebuffs Mr Mulheron’s claims. 

“Firstly, it’s wrong to say no government funding should go to non-government schools,” he tells Peninsula Living

“They’re wrong in a principle sense and they’re also wrong in an economic sense, in that if you withdraw funding from non-government schools, then you’re going to have an influx of pupils to government schools and they’re not going to be able to cope. 

“Every person who goes to a non-government school, in fact, saves taxpayer dollars because the funding that goes to a non-government school is less.”

Budget a roadblock to Beaches Link 

A surprise for some on budget day was the state government’s allocation of just $165 million this financial year for the estimated $14 billion Beaches Link tunnel and West Harbour tunnel project. 

According to budget papers, this money will be allocated to the continued planning and pre-construction phase of the project. 

Federal MP for Warringah, Zali Steggall, says the less than $200 million delivered in the 2019-20 budget suggests the state government is not prioritising the project.

“To me, $165 million put towards the Beaches Link tunnel doesn’t say that we are moving on with that project in the immediate future,” she tells Peninsula Living

“It is going to take substantially more funding for that to show we remain committed to the project, which is extremely important as the commitment to that infrastructure was taken to the election as a core promise.”

Manly MP James Griffin says it is vital this money be used to continue with the planning work in order to ensure environmental impact and increased congestion are minimised during the construction phase. 

He says the concerns of transport experts, residents and local councils voiced during the extended community consultation period, which closed in December 2018, are still under consideration. 

“The money that has been set aside in the budget will continue to allow the government to work through various issues and concerns that people may have,” he tells Peninsula Living

Mr Griffin says the project’s planners are still calculating how best to incorporate the highly popular B-Line bus services into the design. 

Despite such public concerns and the seeming trickle down of state funding, Mr O’Dea maintains the state government is wholly committed to the plans. 

“If you didn’t want it, you could have voted for the Labor party,” he states. 

“The majority of people are for it and you’re going to have unhappy people no matter what you do in politics. What you try and do is act in the public interest, overall.”

Public transport promises 

In the Budget’s Election Commitment papers, the Liberal government reiterated its promise to provide a turn-up-and-go express bus service between Dee Why and Chatswood.

No explicit funding has been issued for the project yet as the state government continues to grapple with the congestion along Warringah Road caused by the continued hospital roadworks. 

Stage two of the roadworks, which is currently underway, is scheduled to be finished in 2020, and the government has allocated close to $73 million this financial year to bring the $700 million project close to completion.

Mr O’Dea says it’s important for the state government to get the infrastructure right first, as the proposed express bus services along the Warringah Road will not be a part of the B-Line and will instead utilise existing bus stops along the route.

He says although the final project will exceed initial cost estimates by around $200m and the completion will be two years behind schedule, locals will have to remain patient. 

“We’re not spending hundreds of millions of dollars for fun, we’re doing it to actually improve the situation in the longer term,” he tells Peninsula Living

“I share the frustration of many of my constituents that it is ongoing longer than all of us would have liked but throwing money at the issue isn’t necessarily the answer.”

In other transport news, the Liberal government has committed to providing 40 additional weekly services for the B-Line between Dee Why and the CBD as part of its attempts to improve public transport across the state.

Northern Beaches Hospital funding minimal

Northern Beaches Hospital will receive just $116,000 in state funding towards its infrastructure life cycle costs this financial year.

This allocation forms part of the $2.7 billion in capital invested on top of the $24 billion in recurrent spending, from which Northern Beaches Hospital will no doubt benefit.

However, the infrastructure spend is the only direct allocation made to the hospital. 

This is despite the Budget funding announcement coming after months of anecdotal reports suggesting drug shortages, understaffing and a lack of medical equipment. 

Such claims were verified by a Health and Education Training Institute report released in July, which states there was “inadequate planning” ahead of the $600 million hospital’s opening, posing “significant risk” to patients, and that “further work” is still required to improve operational issues.

In a statement released at the time of the 2019-2020 NSW Budget, local MP and Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was thrilled with the level of funding received by local health services. 

“This Budget is a bonanza for the Northern Beaches,” he says.

“The investments in our local schools, health services and infrastructure are the likes we have never seen before.”

The current Budget estimate puts the total infrastructure life cycle cost of the hospital at $137.5 million over 20 years.

Stephanie Aikins

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