DEPUTY Premier John Barilaro makes no apologies for spending $44 million of $47 million in art grants in Coalition electorates.
He and former Arts Minister Don Harwin have been accused of pork-barreling after expert advice on where to spend the Regional Cultural Fund Grants was largely ignored, as reported by the ABC on Monday.
Documents revealed 56 projects were funded across 23 electorates, and 20 of those were held by the National Party.
"And Liberals," Mr Barilaro told a press pack in Tamworth on Monday.
"I have no problem and no apology to make in relation to fighting for our fair share of funding in the regions.
"On one side you have the Labor Party accusing us of not spending the 30 per cent of Restart or investing in the regions.
"When we do, it's pork-barrelling. Well my name is John Barilaro, call me Pork-Barilaro, and I have no apology because at the end of the day I will stand up and fight for our communities."
A team of assessors was appointed to rank each of the 150 applications in order of what should be funded, and 116 of those projects were successful.
Among them was a Narrabri road upgrade to allow tourists to better access the Deriah Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Site.
The team of experts, which included four independents members of the NSW arts sector, ruled the project sat outside the guidelines for "cultural infrastructure" but it was still granted almost $250,000.
Mr Barilaro said the ABC article was a pork-barrelling story with "probably not all the facts".
"I'd love for the Labor Party, the ABC or anyone to go to those communities that received funding, the little cultural communities that received funding," he said.
"When we get accused by the Labor Party about the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, go and tell those communities they do not deserve that investment.
"The guidelines were merit-based and the guidelines clearly gave discretion for us to make those decisions."
At least $2.6 million was spent in the New England North West region on cultural projects.
The Armidale Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place was among the projects funded - receiving $846,000 - along with a major refurbishment for the Guyra Historical Museum and a Tamworth Regional Gallery project for portable digital screens.
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