The impact in Nambucca, Bellingen and Kempsey Shires

Kempsey's Hayley Hoskins
Kempsey's Hayley Hoskins

Budget at a glance

  • Australia will now carry a trillion-dollar debt
  • Income tax cuts have been brought forward and will be backdated to July, meaning more than seven million Australians will receive a tax break of at least $2000 this year
  • There will be 100,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships costing $1.2 billion
  • Businesses with a turnover of up to $5 billion will now be able to write off the full value of any eligible asset that is purchased for the business
  • The JobMaker program will offer businesses a hiring credit to hire 16- to 35-year-old job seekers.
Bellingen's Libby Park

Bellingen's Libby Park

Business - the big winners

Businesses up and down the coast are pleased with what is on offer for them:

  • the full value write off of any eligible asset they purchase.
  • losses incurred up to June 2022 can be offset against prior profits made in the previous two years.
  • the new JobMaker Hiring Credit will give $200 a week to employers who hire anyone aged 16-30, and $100 a week for any worker aged 30-35. New employees must have been on JobSeeker and be given at least 20 hours of work a week

Chambers of Commerce have welcomed the announcement of financial incentives for businesses to take on apprentices, trainees and young people on JobSeeker.

Bellingen Chamber's president, Libby Park, said it "fitted in neatly" with their new program, Bellingen Employment Pathways.

"The program is designed to create employment opportunities by building partnerships between local employers, registered training organisations, local high schools and apprenticeship centres," Libby said.

"The federal budget boost will help us achieve positive outcomes for local businesses and job seekers and contribute to strong growth in our local economy."

Mental health

The budget included a boost for mental health services for people impacted by the tough restrictions and mental toll of the pandemic.

The Government has extended a number of key services to help people through the crisis including increasing the number of Medicare-funded psychological services from 10 to 20.

Founder of local Kempsey charity Baylin's Gift, Hayley Hoskins, said the mental health support would help people in regional areas.

"It's very important to have mental health services available. In our area we don't have a lot of support compared to the city," she said.

"This will make it easier for people in regional areas to access mental health care."

Subsidised telehealth services, including mental health services will also be extended until the end of March next year.

 Grahame Beaton, left, with Don Parveez and Paul Wood

Grahame Beaton, left, with Don Parveez and Paul Wood

Pensioners

Nambucca Heads pensioner Wendy Montagne said that while pensioners were not being given exactly what they wanted, in difficult times expectations needed to be adjusted.

"We were certainly grateful for the $750 payments earlier and these next ones will help keep us going," Wendy said.

"It is shame they did not offer anything for social housing or rent assistance as there are a lot of people who struggle to pay the rent ... but I am also very grateful for what we do receive.

"In comparison with the United States, where I lived for 11 years, things are much better here. People are not taken care of at all over there.

"That said, the medical services here are under a lot of stress and I know the delays to 'elective' surgery have made life difficult and depressing for a lot of people."

Another resident, Grahame Beaton, said while the one-off payments (2 x $250) will be welcome, they won't go far in helping pay the rent or electricity bills.

"I think they could have been a bit more generous with that," Grahame said.

He said that more aged care packages were good to see but he felt uneasy about the generous profit margins that providers included in all the costs.

As for the debt, he said that was unavoidable in order to get the economy moving.

"I think this is a good opportunity to realy start generating our own goods - we are simply too dependent on overseas suppliers. So much of what we produce is gone before Australians even see it!"

* Net debt is now expected to reach $703 billion this year and peak at a record $966 billion by June 2024. Before the pandemic, the Government forecast there would be a $5 billion surplus for the 2019-20 financial year.

Childcare

Not all areas can be winners when it comes to the budget, which is the case for the childcare sector.

Although there is continued assistance for childcare providers impacted by the tough restrictions in Victoria, there was no inclusion in the budget to support childcare providers.

Owner of River Street Early Learning Centre in Kempsey, Katherine Wilson, said it came as a disappointment to families enrolled at the centre.

"It is disappointing that our families won't be getting any relief. It's so important for children to have access to early learning and childcare and this will be hard for a number of families," she said.

However, due to the wage subsidy included in the budget, Katherine will be able to hire trainees at the centre.

"We think we will be able to put on two more young people from Kempsey because of the wage subsidy.

"It's sort of a double edged sword, it's hard for our families because they are getting nothing, but we'll be able to put on more people and give them jobs."

President of the Coffs Coast Branch of the National Parks Association of NSW, Kevin Evans

President of the Coffs Coast Branch of the National Parks Association of NSW, Kevin Evans

Budget fails for our natural environment

For years the North Coast has been the most popular destination for overnight, nature-based domestic tourism in NSW.

Pent-up demand from Australians keen to travel again, albeit safely and closer to home, means the federal government could have given our region a jobs and growth kickstart by investing in the natural assets that draw people here - our forests and wildlife - both badly impacted by last year's fires.

President of the Coffs Coast Branch of the National Parks Association of NSW, Kevin Evans, is disappointed that the opportunity was ignored.

"With over one third of NSW national parks damaged and more than three billion animals perishing during the 2019-20 bushfires, there's never been a better time to invest in environmental initiatives," Kevin said.

"Poorly maintained and degraded natural areas are not places people seek to visit and explore.

"Underinvestment in projects like park track and trail maintenance, weeds and feral animal control, undermine innovation and expansion of the local tourism sector.

"Funding conservation efforts to restore habitats and programs to increase cultural burns to reduce fire risk would have created employment and enhanced the natural environment."

Another initiative close to Kevin's heart is the Great Koala National Park, which he said was primed to deliver conservation and jobs.

"The Great Koala National Park proposal enjoys broad community and business support. A federal budget could have provided much needed financial support to save the koala from extinction and create land management and tourism employment."

Kerry Pearse opening the second Affordable Housing Forum held in Bellingen

Kerry Pearse opening the second Affordable Housing Forum held in Bellingen

Lost opportunity for affordable housing

Kerry Pearse from the local Housing Matters Action Group (Nambucca and Bellingen Shires) said the lack of money in the federal budget for affordable housing was a "huge missed opportunity".

"There's very little in this budget for housing in our area and very little for our region. This budget's all about jobs but it's really hard to get to work if you haven't got somewhere secure to live."

Bellingen, Kemspey and Nambuca Shires are all becoming increasingly unaffordable for renters - Bellingen in particular, due to its popularity with cashed-up tree-changers able to work from home plus the amount of housing stock tied up in the short-term vacation rental market.

"We know anecdotally there's been a significant increase in homelessness, we know people are camping in the forests, we know more people are couch-surfing," Kerry said.

"We know there's been significant increased rental stress."

At the 2016 census, 60 per cent of the shire was in the two lowest income groups - a situation that's likely to have worsened this year.

The government doesn't get that housing is a human right and if people don't have secure housing they can't function as fully engaged citizens.

Kerry Pearse, Bellingen

"This [budget] was an opportunity for a huge investment in social housing that would have led to more jobs as well as more houses. And they haven't gone anywhere near it."

Kerry thinks the only solution is to mobilise locally and overhaul the housing system with new models of shared ownership such as joint ventures between local/state governments and not-for-profits with land secured for low-cost housing; build-to-rent developments and innovative private developments offering clusters of apartments with shared facilities for single people.