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Augusta-Margaret River shire overlooked for big-ticket State Budget items in ‘missed opportunity’: Mettam

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Liberal MLA Libby Mettam says the Augusta-Margaret River shire deserved greater benefits from the State Budget.
Camera IconLiberal MLA Libby Mettam says the Augusta-Margaret River shire deserved greater benefits from the State Budget. Credit: Warren Hately

The WA Opposition and local critics have bemoaned the lack of dedicated funding news for the Augusta-Margaret River shire in last week’s State Budget.

While State Government news included sweeteners such as electricity credits, as well as WA-wide investments in health, mental health and roads, big-ticket items including Margaret River Hospital, the Caves Road upgrade project, and urgent expansion works for Cowaramup Primary School didn’t rate a mention.

More than $17 million was confirmed to connect the region’s Wadandi Track, as well as $1.2m for Capes campgrounds, but the Budget otherwise failed to enact any of the items detailed in a six-point plan for the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park sought by an alliance of stakeholders including the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River and the Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association.

Among the bright spots for the region was a further $1.8m allocated to the new Margaret River Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service station adjacent to the State Emergency Services base, first announced more than five years ago and still not built.

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But Liberal Party leader and Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said the flow of iron ore royalties into the State’s coffers should have been passed on to advancing strategic projects in the Capes.

“Local residents have been let down by the Cook Labor Government at a time when this region continues to experience exponential growth,” she said.

She cited schools, including the high school, the Busselton Airport passenger terminal, and the stalled expansion of Margaret River Hospital, as lost opportunities.

Members of the alliance pushing for greater investment in the national park were quiet this week after venting their frustration at Environment Minister Reece Whitby’s investment in tourism attractions, but little for conservation work in the region’s beleaguered national park.

Acting shire president Tracey Muir said the Budget outcomes were sub-par.

“From our initial analysis, the State Budget does little to support our community or protect our environment,” she said.

“We want to work in partnership with the State to address the major issues affecting Augusta-Margaret River: emergency and affordable housing, long-term funding for social services, and protecting the LNNP.”

However, Cr Muir said the Shire had ramped up its engagement with State Government ministers to push for greater support for the region often wrongly thought of as an enclave of wealthy residents.

The Budget hands WA households and small businesses a $400 electricity credit, bolstered by a further $300 tipped in by the Federal Government this week.

The Government said housing was a key pillar of the Budget, with $1.1 billion being allocated, but no direct projects yet identified within the shire.

Other measures included lifting the threshold for stamp duty exemptions and relief for first-homebuyers.

About $3.2b will be spent on health, with $260m of that on mental health; alcohol and other drug services; and a further $173.2m for the expansion of Bunbury Hospital, which adds to money allocated to Regional Development Minister Don Punch’s Bunbury seat for the waterfront and Bunbury Port.

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