MP not keen on Sydney newcomers

POPULATION growth on the Northern Rivers could get a boost if the Coalition won the next State election, but only if the region wanted it, Ballina MP Don Page said yesterday.

Commenting on a major new regional policy announced at The Nationals' NSW State Conference yesterday, Mr Page said individual councils would have the ability to opt in or out of a scheme offering $7000 to any Sydneysider buying or building their new home in regional NSW.

NSW Nationals Leader Andrew Stoner told the conference at Tamworth that he and Liberal Leader Barry O'Farrell wanted to increase the population in regional areas by 470,000 over the next 25 years.

“Some big city politicians would tell you Australia is full. I disagree,” Mr Stoner said.

However, Mr Page agreed some areas, such as Byron and Ballina, already had strong population growth and might not want a new rush of Sydney residents.

In such areas, councils would be able to opt out and the State government would cut off the $7000 regional relocation grant at their border.

Mr Page said the region stood to benefit from the Coalition's Jobs Action Plan, which aimed to create 40,000 jobs in regional NSW, and $1.6 billion in infrastructure funding for the regions. That funding could be important for the redevelopment of Lismore Base Hospital.

Mr Page said the conference passed a motion yesterday morning to make the fixing of base hospitals across regional NSW a top priority for a Coalition government.

The Nationals' State Conference happened every year, but Mr Page agreed this one had an extra buzz about it thanks to polls tipping a landslide win for the Coalition at next year's poll.



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