The NSW Government has committed $5 billion out of it’s $11.1 billion windfall from selling it’s remaining interest in Westconnex to a new Westinvest Fund, aimed at helping communities and stimulating jobs across Western Sydney.
But how can we turn this media announcement into a genuine pathway of grassroots revitatilisation for those who have suffered the most during the lockdowns?
The government promises Westinvest will “rejuvenate Western Sydney communities and boost jobs”. Seeing as though small businesses are the largest employers in NSW, we need to ensure there is a focus on the micro and small businesses in the restricted LGAs across Western Sydney.
And we need to make sure funds are not funnelled to the regular ‘go to’ large businesses who were not affected as much (or at all) during the lockdowns.
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The government says the first $3 billion will be used for:
- Parks, urban spaces and green space;
- Enhancing community infrastructure, such as local sporting grounds;
- Modernising local schools;
- Creating and enhancing arts and cultural facilities;
- Revitalising high-streets;
- Clearing local traffic.
These are all good initiatives, but who will be receiving the funding to make this happen?
Typically these projects are implemented by already established and connected businesses with hundreds of employees.
This time around we need to have a tender-based process that is targeted towards those who need the work. For example, criteria should include:
- Business must be based in a restricted LGA during the time of lockdowns;
- Businesses must employ fewer than 100 employees and have remained open during the lockdowns;
- These larger small businesses must then hire women and CALD community members who’ve been made redundant or let go as a result of the lockdowns;
- 30% of all funds should be directed to sole traders or small businesses with fewer than five employees;
- Priority should be given to majority women and CALD community-owned businesses (as statistics show they were the hardest hit during the lockdowns); and
- If an established firm is to secure a tender for the above they should be able to show how they are hiring people who’ve lost their jobs during lockdowns and contracting out to small businesses in the region.
The remaining $2 billion will be reserved for high priority projects to be developed in consultation with local communities.
Based on what the NSW Government has said previously, high priority communities include youth, CALD communities, mature aged women and the long-term unemployed.
Unlike during the lockdowns, the NSW Government needs to have open conversations and not be afraid of honest feedback in relation to what the people of Western Sydney need, to not only recover from what has been the worst time in their lives, but for a pathway to financial security that will assist them to return to work and re-build their communities.
This requires a grassroots campaign to find out what the people truly need, direct access to the people and not just relying on those who sit at the top of the hierarchy and rarely communicate with their members or constituents.
As I have always made very clear: Western Sydney is the heart of NSW. We are also aware of our power when it comes to election time.
The Westinvest slogan talks the talk, but important questions remain.
Is it going to be allocated to pre-determined projects in the pipeline, or will the government engage the right people and set the correct parameters to ensure it also walks the walk and rebuilds communities that have been nearly decimated at no fault of our own?