Our Say: A huge windfall we must not let melt away

What do you do with a $4.15 billion windfall?

For openers, grab as much of it for your region as you can for much-needed projects and infrastructure. And get in quick with the great ideas, arguments and justifications before others do.

The NSW Government last week sold its share of the Snowy Mountains Scheme for $4.15 billion.

Announcing the windfall, Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her Deputy John Barilaro were quick to say the money would be used exclusively for regional projects.

But, they did not say what the windfall would be spent on. They don’t want to rush to a decision and every regional MP would have a chance to say what they believe the money should go towards.

And MPs, including Dubbo’s Troy Grant, were immediately saying they would be consulting their communities on the issue.

Rightly so.

Community needs and views should be at the heart of the decisions on the spending.

Mr Barilaro said the government would take time to determine what the money would be spent on but said it would go toward visionary projects.

Talking about the Central West, he then mentioned the usual spending suspects like roads, water storage and dams, telecommunications and schools.

Mr Grant said he personally “had $4.2 billion worth of ideas”.

The community in the Dubbo electorate – and elsewhere for that matter – needs to step up big-time with big ideas (even a few dreams) on this occasion. 

Voters expect the government to fund those “usual suspects” from annual budgets. It would be a poor effort if the government used it on them, saved budget expenditure and later claimed “surplus” budgets from those savings.

There will obviously be competition throughout the regions for the cash.

Then there is a state election next year and that could influence government thinking.

$4.15 billion makes for an absolutely massive pork barrel in Nationals seats where members of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, One Nation and independents may well be serious challengers to sitting MPs. 

The Snowy money is an unexpected windfall. It should, as Mr Barilaro says, be used on visionary projects. It is up to regional communities to help make sure it is.