The Riverina’s library services are under threat from a state government budget cuts, opposition local government spokesman Peter Primrose has claimed.
Mr Primrose joined with Wagga Labor byelection candidate Dan Hayes on Thursday to reiterate a pledge to double library funding if they get into government.
According to Local Government NSW, the 2018/19 state budget cut funding by 18 per cent down to $23.5 million.
“Public library use is growing very fast in NSW, lots of communities rely on libraries for essential services.
“That’s why we believe we need proper resourcing for our great public library.”
Mr Primrose said the NSW government cut $5.2 million below what libraries should have got after inflation.
“If we win government at the next election, we will double funding to public libraries in NSW, we are going to link that funding to the consumer price index and have an infrastructure fund for libraries to expand,” he said.
The state government has made $5m available for library infrastructure under the Regional Cultural Fund, but Wagga City councillors have said that would not replace funds for day-to-day expenses.
Mr Hayes said libraries were no longer just for books but were now a “community hub” of services and programs for residents of all ages.
“Any further cuts are going to result in fewer opening hours and less programs,” he said.
“The Riverina Regional Library is for a range of towns, not just Wagga. They can’t have libraries in their own towns and we fund a significant part of that.
“It’s also at risk. It’s not just about the building in Wagga.”
Mr Hayes, who is also a Wagga councillor, last month voted for a successful motion for the city to support the ‘Renew Our Libraries’ campaign by NSW Public Libraries Association and Local Government NSW.