Will Tamworth get its fair share of a budgeted $107 billion of infrastructure investment, to be spent over the next four years?
NSW is set to go deep into the red after a big-spending budget announced on Tuesday.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced a record $16 billion deficit to help finance a plan to spend the state out of its first recession in three decades.
But despite the record infrastructure spend, many hoped-for projects in the Tamworth region have gone unannounced or without specific funding in budget papers, leaving local leaders worried.
The state budget commits to fund "planning for the Gunnedah and Moree hospital redevelopments" but does not attach a price tag.
By contrast, the state will spend half-a-million dollars planning an upgrade of the Glen Innes hospital, in the Northern Tablelands electorate.
Gunnedah Mayor Jamie Chaffey said the lack of specific dollars allocated left a "question mark" over the project.
Without a specific number, he didn't know how long planning the $53 million project would take, potentially leading to a delay, he said.
"The question from me is how much money is available which will determine how much work will be able to be done in the next 12 months for the development of Gunnedah hospital," he said.
"We know planning is always at the front end of that.
"The actual design ... has to be done and that comes at a price point. To be able to accelerate the upgrade of the hospital could only happen if that planning timeframe was reduced, which of course would mean that would require a fair bit of money to do so.
"There's still a lot of questions about what does it mean for Gunnedah.
"It's hard to be confident when you don't see the detail. I can't say that I'm confident."
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson told the Leader he expected the state government would spend about half-a-million dollars on the project in 2020-2021.
"This is great news for the people of Gunnedah and the wider community," he said.
"It's expected that the cost of preliminary planning will be approximately $500,000 and I'll be pushing for the work to begin as soon as possible."
Only three local projects were specifically identified in the budget - the already-completed Tamworth Public School ($6.1 million) and the new Gunnedah Second Road Over Rail Bridge ($6.2 million). The latter project will be completed within days.
The papers also budget to spend $4.2 million on the Gunnedah saleyard redevelopment.
Tamworth Regional Councillor Mark Rodda pointed out that the marginal seat of Dubbo, which is smaller than Tamworth, would receive a new drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, a new Dubbo hospital carpark, a new highway bridge, a new training centre, a new police education and training facility and an upgrade to the famous city zoo, all identified line items in Tuesday's budget.
He said Tamworth was a safe Nationals seat and was being treated like a safe seat.
"I thought that would be the outcome," he said.
"I thought that Kevin was preparing us for disappointment this week and he's delivered it in spades."
Mr Anderson said that each MP chooses how to make their budget announcements individually, and his were largely announced through the year.
"The money we've invested and brought to the Tamworth electorate has been spread out over the year. I wanted to make sure we had continued investment, continued support for jobs, continued support for businesses, throughout the year."
Planning the upgrade of Banksia's Mental Health Unit, which had been mentioned in two previous budgets but never priced, is not mentioned at all in the 2020-2021 budget papers. Planning for the project will be funded through the state-wide Mental Health Infrastructure Program.
The $3.9 million gap is narrowing, with the state to invest an additional $1.4 million, he said.
"Given the current pandemic, given what this year has looked like, my focus and my strategy was to bring a lot of those projects forward," he said.
"We've had significant investment in Tamworth over the last eight to nine months. Today certainly caps off certainly record spending, particularly through agriculture.
"I've made sure that this budget caps off what has been a strategic investment in our region all the way."
He said government would spend $10 million on an upgrade to Werris Creek road, $4.2 million on Gunnedah's regional saleyards and $9 million for an off-creek storage in Walcha "so it never runs out of water again".
Tamworth Deputy Mayor Phil Betts said he was happy to see increased funding for three government schemes councils can use to subsidise their own infrastructure works.
This budget also commits $812 million for social and affordable housing - to deliver more than 1,200 new dwellings, and upgrade over 8,000 more. Local Government NSW President Linda Scott said government needed to invest even more to clear up a years-old waiting list.
Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall said the state would spend a "record" $315.7 million over the next seven months in his electorate, largely on roads, hospitals and public facilities like a new Inverell police station.
Government will allocate $2 million to plan the Moree hospital reconstruction, he said.