Debate has begun over where the money from the federal government’s multi-billion dollar purchase of the state’s share in the Snowy Hydro scheme should be invested across regional NSW.
Last week, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced funds from the sale of NSW shares in the scheme, valued at $4.15billion, will “create an investment bonanza in regional NSW”, with “every cent” to be spent in rural and regional areas.
Eden-Monaro MP Mike Kelly said the money should be used to fully fund an East/West link road from the Monaro to the Port of Eden and establishing the Bundian Way as a key tourism draw card and “Indigenous icon”.
Dr Kelly also said Labor would not support “anything that includes a plan to privatise the iconic Snowy Hydro scheme”.
“The Turnbull government needs to commit to keeping the Snowy in the hands of the Australian people,” Dr Kelly said.
Australian Smart Communities Association CEO Laurie Patton said NSW and Victoria should use the proceeds from the sale of their shares to fund a wide range of initiatives deploying smart technology to the bush.
“We need every level of government, and all sides of politics, to embrace the smart use of technology to deal with increasing congestion, environmental issues and the many other constraints that are causing people to question the state of modern city living,” the former Internet Australia chief executive and executive director said.
Mr Patton called the idea a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to massively improve quality of life, especially in our regions”.
“Let’s put people in the bush at the top of the heap when it comes to their quality of life,” Mr Patton said.
Some of the ideas put forward by Mr Patton include smart lighting systems, smart meters, intelligent traffic monitoring, smart parking systems and connected garbage bins that alert councils when they are full.
“There’s no doubt that regional Australia needs more infrastructure spending, but let’s not just do more of the same,” Mr Patton said.
“Let’s start making 21st Century decisions and leverage all the amazing new products and services that are being used internationally in so-called Smart Cities.
“These are just some of the solutions already being deployed around the world.”
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW said the sale offers a “unique opportunity” to unlock the $25billion clean energy potential of regional NSW.
“NSW is the only government in eastern Australia without a plan to clean up our electricity system and slash our carbon emissions,” CEO Kate Smolski.
“The sale of Snowy Hydro adds new impetus to address that shortcoming.”
She said investing the money in clean energy infrastructure will “bring jobs to regional NSW, put downward pressure on prices and reduce our contribution to climate change”.
Ms Smolski has previously highlighted South East NSW as one of four regions, which together she said could “supply 70 per cent of the state’s electricity needs through large-scale wind and solar farms, and rooftop solar”.