I welcome the member for Camden moving the motion and I place on record the Labor Opposition's support for the Dine & Discover program. I give credit to the Minister for the work that he and his department have done in rolling out the vouchers within the Service NSW app. Similar schemes have been rolled out in jurisdictions around the world to stimulate the economy and support households under financial strain during the pandemic. Households right across this State have been under pressure over the past two years and with the rising costs of living from interest rates, taxes or tolls, households continue to experience that today.
The rising cost of living combined with the impacts of the pandemic have substantially impacted local businesses, particularly in hospitality and tourism. The investment in the program was supposed to help revitalise local economies, but it is disappointing to see that millions upon millions of dollars failed to reach local businesses, particularly in regional and rural economies. Figures provided in response to a question on notice in the weeks prior to the vouchers expiring showed that only 58 per cent of the vouchers had been spent statewide. Those figures show a clear city-country divide, with the 60 lowest take-up figures being in rural councils. The Central Darling local government area [LGA] had the highest percentage—72 per cent—of vouchers unredeemed. The Queanbeyan-Palerang regional LGA had 59 per cent of its vouchers unspent, worth $2.7 million. On 24 June the Opposition leader called on the Government to extend the expiry deadline for the vouchers. When opening registrations for the program the then Treasurer, who is now the Premier, said:
We've heard loud and clear just how tough it has been for businesses across NSW. This program will reinvigorate local economies and provide customers with hip pocket relief.
Therefore, it is disappointing that the Government did not extend the expiry deadline to ensure the money reached local communities, as the Premier said, to reinvigorate local economies and provide customers with hip-pocket relief. We know there was significant underspend in this program with a further question on notice from the Opposition exposing that $236 million of the $586 million in claimed vouchers went unspent. That is $236 million in financial support that failed to reach businesses across New South Wales. Those figures only confirmed the city-country divide.
In my own electorate in the Lake Macquarie LGA $1.7 million in Dine NSW vouchers and $4.4 million in Discover NSW vouchers was unspent. Combined, that is $6 million of financial support that my community missed out on. Six million dollars would go a long way towards supporting local families who are feeling the pinch, with 51 per cent of households in the Hunter and Lake Macquarie living in housing stress.
Something similar happened on the Central Coast. A whopping $3 million in Dine NSW vouchers and $7 million in Discover NSW vouchers went unspent. That community is also missing out on $10 million in financial support. Elsewhere in the Hunter, other regional LGAs missed out: Maitland, over $700,000 in Dine NSW and $2.4 million in Discover NSW vouchers; Cessnock, $562,000 in Dine NSW and $1.3 million in Discover NSW vouchers; and Upper Hunter, over $159,000 in Dine NSW and $370,000 in Discover NSW vouchers. It goes on and on.
The Hunter is not the only place where that money failed to reach regional communities; it happened right around the State. Wagga Wagga missed out on over $2 million in support, including $614,000 in Dine NSW and $1.4 million in Discover NSW vouchers. Tamworth missed out on $567,000 in Dine NSW and $1.4 million in Discover NSW vouchers. What about the Deputy Premier's community? He likes to come into this place and wax lyrical about how much money The Nationals are securing for the bush. Surely he would have ensured that his community of Bathurst did not miss out, but over $1.2 million in support for local businesses and their households was unspent. As the member noted in his motion, that money was supposed to help families with rising cost‑of‑living pressures.
The Government often lauds itself for offering cost-of-living relief, but those figures show that financial relief has not reached households right across this State. Labor supported the Dine & Discover program to help revitalise local communities and to provide crucial cost-of-living relief for families across the State. But the reality is that the Government has failed to ensure that this funding reached our communities. When presented with evidence that hundreds of millions of dollars in support would never reach those who needed it most, it chose not to act.
For the benefit of the member for Camden, who moved the motion, almost $3 million went unspent in his electorate—$912,000 in Dine NSW and $1.8 million in Discover NSW. That is not a great outcome for any of our communities. Whilst the Labor Opposition really did throw its weight behind the Dine & Discover voucher program and thought it was a good idea to assist families and businesses across the State, it stares in the face of the intention when those funds are not provided broadly across the State, even when there is the opportunity to do so. But I thank the member for bringing the motion before the House so that there is the opportunity to debate the efficiency and the effectiveness of the scheme.