Regional services to be scrutinised in NSW parliament

·3-min read

A new inquiry will be held into how well services are being delivered across the NSW regions, as NSW Premier Chris Minns accuses the former government of underfunding critical road repairs across the regions.

Rural roads had been neglected by the former government, and a great amount of work would be needed to get service delivery up to scratch in the regions, Premier Chris Minns told the parliament on Wednesday.

"The National Party have largely abandoned regional NSW for the last 12 years," Mr Minns said.

The former government allocated no funds to new regional and rural roads during the 2022-23 or 2023-24 budgets, with new funding set to kick in next year, according to costings from the Parliamentary Budget Office.

The former federal government had also fallen short on its commitment to transfer 15,000km of regional roads into the hands of the state government, completing the transfer of just five kilometres.

The inquiry will examine how government services are delivered across the NSW regions, and will be led by independent Barwon MP Roy Butler.

Also in parliament, reforms designed to help NSW renters hit a snag after the Greens withdrew support for a key government bill, saying it could inadvertently push spiralling prices higher.

The Minns government hoped to introduce a portable bond scheme and put an end to "secret rent bidding", where prospective tenants approach real estate agents privately, offering to pay more rent to secure a property.

Under a suite of government reforms, real estate agents would have to disclose higher bids to all prospective tenants.

With the rental market spiralling, the Greens argue the measure could have unintended consequences, continually pushing the price of properties higher.

Entrenching a system that gave rental properties to the highest bidder is the "the last thing we should be doing", Greens housing spokeswoman Jenny Leong said.

"Every day renters are struggling to find an affordable place to live in a brutally competitive rental market, or being hit with unfair rent hikes," she said.

The bill will now be sent to a lower house standing committee for an inquiry.

"This inquiry is an opportunity to demonstrate the real harms being caused by rent bidding, both in its secrecy and in how it is massively driving up the cost of rent," Ms Leong said.

Meanwhile, the opposition says the government's plan to add Sydney Water and Hunter Water in the NSW constitution does not go far enough and excludes a fifth of the population.

The coalition dubbed the promise the government's election scare campaign, only to change tack on Tuesday and put up an amendment to have all water utilities added to the constitution.

"It discriminates against the 1.85 million people who obtain their water from water utilities other than Sydney Water and Hunter Water," Nationals MP Steph Cooke told parliament.

"Failure to include other utilities leaves us wondering about the NSW Labor government's agenda in relation to the future privatisation of WaterNSW and the 89 local water utilities across regional, rural, and remote NSW."