Deputy Premier and leader of the Nationals: Andrew Stoner. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
City renters will be offered $7000 to buy property in rural areas as part of an overhaul of the NSW government's underperforming regional relocation grant scheme.
The Deputy Premier and leader of the Nationals, Andrew Stoner, will announce new rules for the scheme on Wednesday, including a minimum relocation distance of 100 kilometres to end rorting of the grant.
Under the original scheme, which only applied to city home owners buying new property in regional areas, five of the $7000 grants were paid to applicants who moved less than two kilometres.
Mr Stoner will also announce a new $10,000 ''skilled regional relocation incentive'' for people willing to move to regional areas to fill local jobs for a minimum period of two years, without the need to buy property.
Applications for both grants will be subject to an annual cap, which, for 2013-14, is $10.4 million. The revamped scheme will begin from January next year.
The government has also decided to set a target of relocating 1500 public-sector jobs from metropolitan Sydney to regional areas by 2021.
The regional relocation grant scheme was key to the Coalition's 2011 election promise to create a ''decade of decentralisation'' in NSW.
It offers $7000 to households willing to sell up in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong and buy a regional property worth up to $600,000 to use as their principal place of residence. But the take-up has been underwhelming. Just 2531 grants have been paid since July 1, 2011, despite an initial budgeted target of 7000 grants - or $49 million - a year for four years.
The changes are among the recommendations of a taskforce commissioned by the government to review its decentralisation policies. The taskforce found a key criticism of the grant was that it was too low and recommended increasing it to $10,000 and extending it to renters willing to buy in regional areas.
The government has agreed to extend the $7000 grant to renters but opted to introduce the new $10,000 employment-based incentive. City renters will have to have at least two consecutive years of rental history to be eligible for the $7000 grant.
The new skills-based grant will not be tied to home ownership but eligibility criteria include two years' residence in Sydney, Newcastle or Wollongong and proof of offer of employment at least 100 kilometres away.
A fresh marketing campaign will be developed to help sell the new scheme.
Mr Stoner said the government was ''delivering on its commitment to generate growth in regional economies, manage the state's predicted population growth and deliver greater opportunities for local decision-making to regional communities''.
But opposition rural and regional affairs spokesman Mick Veitch said the scheme had been ''a dud from the start'' and the changes were an admission it has failed.