North Shore Numbers Game: The Budget Breakdown
‘The education budget’
The NSW Budget for 2019-20 is being dubbed ‘the education budget’, with the state government revealing a record $18.5 billion in spending on education. This includes an increase of $1.2 billion in spending on the previous year and encompasses allocations such as $6.7 billion for 190 new and upgraded schools.
“For too long, the capacity of education in the lower North Shore was a big problem and now our government is addressing that,” NSW premier and Willoughby MP Glady Berejiklian tells North Shore Living.
Of that school infrastructure spending, the big winners locally included Willoughby Public School, Willoughby Girls High School and the newly opened Cammeraygal High School Senior Campus.
In 2019-20, Willoughby Girls High School will receive $7 million towards completing its upgrade project by 2020 and Cammeraygal High School Senior Campus has been allocated $2.1 million to finish its upgrade this year.
Meanwhile, close to $24.4 million will be delivered for Willoughby Public School’s $35.7 million upgrade, which is scheduled to finish next year.
The Berejiklian government also outlined its commitment to upgrading Mosman High School in the current budget and continuing with plans to upgrade the facilities at Neutral Bay High School.
Planning works for a new St Leonards Education Precinct and upgrades to North Sydney Demonstration School have also been committed to, together with the continuation of plans for the Chatswood Education Precinct.
The precinct will be formed through the redevelopment and relocation of Chatswood Public School, Chatswood High School and Chatswood Intensive English Centre and will receive funding from the $6.7 billion in school infrastructure spending.
However, her 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 upgrades to non-government schools.
“This is of particular concern given non-government schools are already overfunded 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.
Budget a roadblock to Beaches Link tunnel
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.
This money will be allocated to the continued planning and pre-construction phase of the project.
Warringah MP 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 North Shore 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.”
North Shore MP Felicity Wilson, says it is vital this money be used to continue with the planning work, to ensure environmental impact is minimised and the concerns of transport experts, residents and local councils are fully considered.
“Work is progressing on the environmental and planning stage to refine the tunnel design in response to community feedback and prepare for the delivery of this crucial piece of infrastructure,” Ms Wilson states.
“Once a revised design is completed and contracts awarded, the budget papers will be updated to include the costs to complete the project.”
Despite such public concerns and the seeming trickle down of state funding, Premier Berejiklian maintains the NSW government is wholly committed to the plans.
“There’s always a group of individuals with anything you talk about that aren’t going to be happy with what you’re saying or doing,” she tells North Shore Living.
“We know some people in the community have very strong views and it’s our job to listen, but also make decisions that are going to help or support the vast majority of residents.”
Sydney Metro is full steam ahead
The budget also outlined a further $5.3 billion over four years to continue with the construction of the Sydney Metro project, which will include work on the Crows Nest and North Sydney (Victoria Cross) stations.
While the southwest line heading towards the CBD is on track for its 2024 completion date, some locals still harbour misgivings about the ongoing construction works.
As previously reported in North Shore Living, residents have voiced concerns for pedestrian safety and increased traffic congestion due to the heavy trucks used in the construction process.
There are also fears the local environment will be impacted by excessive noise and drilling dust during the building phase, and traders’ businesses could be impacted.
Despite this, Ms Wilson believes the project, once finished, will prove as popular with commuters as the north-west line, which opened earlier this year.
“The Sydney metro is a game changer,” she tells North Shore Living.
“It has already experienced more than 1.5 million passenger journeys since the north-west component opened this year, and we expect an even greater uptake once the next two stages are complete.”
Premier Berejiklian agrees, saying the project will deliver the two-fold benefit of providing better transport to the North Shore and reducing traffic congestion across the road network.
“We’ve already seen so many thousands of cars taken off the road, and let’s not underestimate that our communities here on the lower north shore are often a rat run for communities coming from other areas trying to get to the CBD,” she states.
In other transport news, the NSW government also has reiterated its promise to start planning works on a turn-up-and-go express bus service between Chatswood and Dee Why in the budget papers.
No explicit funding has been issued for the project yet, however, as the state government continues to grapple with the congestion along Warringah Road caused by the continued hospital roadworks.
The Route E60 from Chatswood to Mona Vale will also benefit from 70 additional weekly services, while funding has been delivered for upgrades to Wollstonecraft Station and Taronga Zoo, South Mosman, and North Sydney ferry wharves.