Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pilbara cities, New England & royalties to the regions

Have you ever heard of the Pilbara Cities plan? No? Well, I knew only vaguely. WA gets about as much coverage in the eastern states as New England does in Sydney, and for the same reasons. It's not seen as really relevant to the media audience.

In simple terms, the WA Government is spending a billion dollars over four years on housing and infrastructure in the Pilbara. The intent is to help the area accommodate growth from its present population of about 36,000.

I don't know whether or not the plan makes sense. I haven't done the analysis to form a judgement. Yet I couldn't help wincing.

In WA, a resurgent National Party forced the allocation of royalty payments to the regions. This was in fact much criticised by mainstream political commentators. In NSW, the growing mining royalty stream went straight into consolidated revenue to be frittered away across the state.

I wonder how people in Newcastle and the Hunter coal towns with their straining infrastructure would feel if they actually knew about the WA example? I bet they don't. The same level of additional spend in NSW in those areas would absorb less than a quarter of of NSW royalty payments over four years.

How about it NSW Nats? Feel like joining in? 


Rod said...

Please NSW National Party... now is the time to be what we've always we needed (and thought) you to be! I agree with you totally Mr Belshaw!

Greg said...

Jim, I have actually heard of this scheme and it is probably a great thing for WA. No doubt the mining regions there were just as agrieved at Perth dominating the state's spending priorities when much of that wealth is generated in remote mining districts where infrastructure is poor.

I agree that NSW should adopt the same scheme, but I really don't care who initiates it - Nats, ALP or Libs. I'll support whoever stands for a fairer allocation of our resource revenue.

In truth I doubt that any of the major parties will take this on. Let's face it, Newcastle and the Hunter is barely higher in the consciousness of the capital than is the Pilbarra. I'd bet that it would cause panic in Macquarie Street if a secession movement gained some real momentum and there emerged a real possibility that NSW would lose the massive royalty stream that flows from the Hunter.

Stu said...

Threatening NSW with loss of mining royalties is the only way to gain any concessions for Newcastle or northern NSW. Money is the only thing that talks in Sydney and Newcastle and the Hunter punch well above their weight in this regard.

I predict the China boom to end soon but coal to remain in demand thus keeping Newcastle and the Hunter afloat while Sydney goes into down turn.

If we want to avoid subsidising Sydney even more than usual then soon would be the time to agitate for royalties to go the Hunter or for a new state.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi all and apologies for my slow response to comments.

Rod, glad that we agree!

Greg, I suspect that you are right.

Stu, start agitating!