I take note of failures by the New South Wales Liberal and Nationals Government to deliver on its election promises in the Blue Mountains.
The Berejiklian‑Barilaro Government makes much of its alleged devotion to regional New South Wales, but as a member of this Parliament who represents an electorate that straddles the city and country divide, I can report for the benefit of the members that the so-called devotion of Government to regional communities is superficial and politically expedient.
As an example, I have a story that formed a front-page splash in the Blue Mountains Gazette.
In this edition of my local paper, significant coverage was given to a core promise by former Premier Mike Baird and the former member for the Blue Mountains. They promised that $4 million would be set aside by this Government to fund a major event in the Blue Mountains electorate. This was to benefit the tourism industry, which is an integral part of our local economy. For the benefit of Hansard, that article was published on 17 March 2015. We are now in October 2017, two years and seven months later, and there is still no money or plan for Blue Mountains major events funding. In October 2015, concerned that I had not yet heard anything from the then Minister for Tourism and Major Events about a major event in the Blue Mountains, I lodged a question on notice asking the following:
Will the $4 million funding promised in the lead up to the recent election for major events in the Blue Mountains be provided?
The answer—five weeks later—was yes. I do not come into this place seeking unnecessary argument, so I gave the former Minister the benefit of the doubt and set the issue to one side. Indeed, perhaps I let the matter slide for too long. One year later in September 2016 I called upon the Minister to come clean on whether the funding for this major event would ever be made available.
At that time, I was told that the announcement had been postponed due to the organiser of the proposed event passing away. Further advice from the Minister stated:
Since that time, Destination NSW has been in discussions with his business partners on a way forward. Destination NSW has also been in discussions with two music event promoters as potential partners for a similar event and discussions are currently ongoing. Scoping for potential locations in the Blue Mountains is also continuing.
On the basis of this advice I once again set the issue to one side and hoped to hear soon what developments or advancements were being made towards this promise being delivered.
In the 12 months since that time, the former Minister for Tourism and Major Events lost his job and was saddled with the Ministry for Toll Roads. Clearly, even the Premier does not want the member for Penrith to serve in opposition after the 2019 election. And so here we are with a new Minister for Tourism.
Rather than the sound of opera echoing through the mountains as was promised by the former member and former Premier, there is deafening silence. Given that so little has been achieved in delivering on this promise I encourage the Government to take on board the advice of the Blue Mountains Accommodation and Tourism Association [BMATA], which has made clear that what the Blue Mountains tourism industry would most benefit from is a significant investment in a consistent calendar of small to medium events spread out across the year.
In 2016 the then President of BMATA, Eric Sward, told the Blue Mountains Gazette:
Medium level events, quality events, over a consistent calendar throughout the year would grow overnight visitation and benefit the economy at large. A large, one-off event wouldn't be nearly as beneficial in the long term.
My advice to today's Minister for Tourism and Major Events and today's Premier is that they deliver on the promises of their predecessors. But not only that, they should deliver on those promises by consulting with the Blue Mountains community and tourism industry, which is the mainstay of my electorate and that this money is supposed to benefit.
They should seek the input of industry representatives such as BMATA and make sure that the mistakes of their predecessors are not repeated. They should save themselves the embarrassment of being asked for the third year in a row to explain where the money has gone.