NSW govt splash cash in lead-up to budget

·3-min read

The NSW government has announced more than $2.1 billion in funding for renewable energy, Opal upgrades, biosecurity, women and multiculturalism ahead of the upcoming budget.

The budget will come on June 21 as the state rebounds from COVID-19 and devastating floods, ahead of an election in March amid cost of living pressures.

The bulk of funding announced on Friday - $1.2 billion - will go towards a transmission acceleration facility and renewable energy zones to replace closing power stations.

Treasurer Matt Kean said the funds support an estimated 2700 construction jobs and $14 billion in private infrastructure investment.

The first investment will be the Waratah super battery, said to be the largest standby network battery in the southern hemisphere.

More than 50 large-scale renewable energy projects sit in the NSW planning system, but many need additional capacity across the transmission network.

"The (transmission acceleration) facility is a critical step in unlocking the new generation needed," Mr Kean said.

Clean Energy Council external affairs director Arron Wood said the facility and renewable energy zones would bring more power online.

"At a time when energy prices are at near-record highs, they will also help alleviate the factors that have caused the current energy crisis and avoid them recurring in the future," he said.

Opposition Leader Chris Minns said the funding over the next decade does not do much to address immediate problems.

"Energy prices are going through the roof. Privatisation has meant the government's ability to do much about it has completely been negated," Mr Minns said.

Mr Kean also announced $119 million for research and development to turn local RNA research into new products, services and jobs.

RNA is genetic material like DNA, used for vaccines and gene therapy.

The Opal ticketing system will get $567.9 million to upgrade and expand, with the introduction of a digital card and the trial of a service called Opal Plus.

Some 10,000 people will take part in a 12-month trial of the service, bundling public transport, rideshare, taxi, e-bike rental and parking expenses into one platform.

Consolidating transport payments has been talked about for several years going back to 2017.

Mr Kean said more than four billion Opal trips have been taken since its introduction in 2012.

"It is now time to invest in keeping this system in line with our evolving needs and expectations," Mr Kean said.

Mr Minns said he was concerned about Opal fares going up next month, which would further strain household budgets and hurt the recovery of the CBD economy.

He supported Opal upgrades and the digital card but said people won't care how they pay if the price goes up.

Meanwhile, Premier Dominic Perrottet announced $28 million to improve translation of government messaging, support cultural events and establish a religious advisory council.

"Our investment for multicultural and multi-faith communities goes a long way towards harmony, but also allows everyone across our state to enjoy the rich culture that our multicultural society provides," he said.

The Religious Communities Advisory Council will be led by former NSW Police deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas, also named as chair of the existing Multicultural NSW Advisory Board.

Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist faith leaders welcomed the council's priority to ensure protection of worship sites.

"The safety and security of faith communities is critical, given the rise in racial hatred across our state," they said in a joint statement.

Other announcements include $40.3 million for women struggling with menopause and conditions like heart disease and osteoporosis, and $32 million to continue grants supporting women returning to work.

Almost $164 million was earmarked for protecting agriculture from biosecurity threats.

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