More questions than answers are rising to the surface following last week's announcement by the local Member for Bega and the Mayor that the Mogo Adventure Trail received $3m from the Growing Local Economies (GLE) Fund. Firstly the announcement came as a surprise to the councillors who have called for submissions to the project that close today (October 19th). The Councillors were provided a report on September the 8th 2020 seeking Council’s endorsement to publicly exhibit the draft Mogo Adventure Trails Hub Master Plan. The Councillors were told that the draft Plan "is the next step in the process that started with Council identifying the potential for the trails around Mogo to be developed as a premier mountain biking trail network and event precinct" They were told , in the September 2020 report "An initial study prepared by TRC Tourism and presented to Council in August 2019, proposed that small tourism-focused towns/villages like Mogo, offer facilities and services and a local vibe that is attractive to riders and could easily become known as a ‘trail town’. In regards to the financials the report told Councillors "Cost estimates for the construction and maintenance of the track network will be developed once the proposed track locations are confirmed. "Council staff are currently looking at potential opportunities and the development of an investment prospectus to support trail development, maintenance and broader value-added investment opportunities in the village of Mogo. A report on this will be provided at a later date." Of interest the report also states "Council is seeking grant funding opportunities to support the construction of the track network, noting that the network can be staged and the Masterplan will make recommendations on staging". But what grant funding? The report said nothing about council staff making any application to the Growing Local Economies (GLE) Fund. The report did not advise the councillors, residents or ratepayers that in order to make application to this fund there was certain criteria to be met. The Beagle was as surprised as the councillors to hear the local member and Council make the announcement that the project was granted the money and WILL go ahead. The surprise was because currently (until 4pm today Oct 19th 2020) submissions from the public are open to speak for or against the project going ahead and being supported by ratepayer dollars. The Councillors were expecting more submissions and a report. Now, b the announcement, it appears that neither the submissions nor the report are of any relevance. So how did the $3 million grant come about? A spokesperson for the Department of Regional NSW has advised The Beagle (October 19th 2020) that:
Eurobodalla Shire Council submitted a Business Case to the Growing Local Economies (GLE) Fund for the Mogo Adventure Trails project on 1 July 2019 - two weeks before the temporary pause on new applications came into effect under the Growing Local Economies (GLE) Fund.
As stated on the GLE webpage, “all applications (EOI or business case) submitted before midnight 14 July 2019 will be assessed under the relevant guidelines”.
The Mogo Adventure Trails Business Case was assessed under the GLE Program Guidelines, which are published on the GLE webpage. This project met all funding criteria and its approval was announced last week. NSW Government funding is made available to projects on the condition that they meet all relevant approval and planning processes, including local government approvals.
A funding deed for this project will be finalised with Eurobodalla Council after all necessary approvals are met. Funding deeds for projects approved under GLE are overseen by Infrastructure NSW.
Government MPs regularly make announcements on behalf of the NSW Government. NOTE from the 2018 Guidelines:
Above: All projects must have a minimum financial co-contribution of 25 per cent of the total grant amount. The co-contribution for the project must be from sources other than the Restart NSW Fund and must be confirmed. NOTE that at NO TIME have the councillors voted to ANY financial commitment of 25% of $3 million. There is an an exemption from the minimum 25 per cent co-contribution that may be granted where a project is located in a disadvantaged area of NSW, however, that determination would have to be made after the application was lodged. Was the Eurobodalla assessed as disadvantaged in July 2019? The guidelines are also very clear about funding.... If you make an application the sources of funding MUST be confirmed. But how can 25% of $3m be confirmed if it hasn't been endorsed by the councillors. Let's be very clear here.
Council received an initial draft from the consultant in June 2019 (above) The Growing Local Economies (GLE) Fund closed at midnight 14 July 2019 The Department of Regional NSW advised (in writing) that Eurobodalla Shire Council submitted a Business Case to the Growing Local Economies (GLE) Fund for the Mogo Adventure Trails project on 1 July 2019 .
The Councillors were presented with the Eurobodalla Nature Based Tourism Feasibility Study Summary Report on October 22nd 2019. The recommendation was that Council publicly exhibit the draft Eurobodalla Nature Based Tourism Feasibility Study: Summary Report for a period of 28 days and, following public exhibition, a further report be submitted to Council for consideration of submissions and adoption of the Eurobodalla Nature Based Tourism Feasibility Study: Summary Report. Council staff advised councillors and ratepayers, in the report to Council in OCTOBER 2019: Mogo Adventure Trails Hub Strategy Mogo Adventure Trails Hub Strategy is a project referenced in Category 2 of the draft Eurobodalla Nature Based Tourism Feasibility Study: Summary Report and is being prepared by consultants TRC Tourism. This strategy will provide Eurobodalla with the tools to establish the region as a premier adventure trail destination and has been well received by trail users and key stakeholders. In that DRAFT Eurobodalla Nature Based Tourism Feasibility Study: Summary Report presented to the councillors in October 2019 it said of the Mogo Project:
NOTE: DETERMINE cost estimates for the implementation is identified an ACTION. Why would this be an action if the the Department of Regional NSW advised (in writing) that Eurobodalla Shire Council submitted a Business Case to the Growing Local Economies (GLE) Fund for the Mogo Adventure Trails project on 1 July 2019 . The concern here is that this project has been endorsed without a full, open and transparent business case scrutinised by councillors. Nor is there any evidence that the Councillors formally agreed to provide a 25% financial co-contribution. The report on the DRAFT Eurobodalla Nature Based Tourism Feasibility Study: Summary Report, presented to the councillors in October 2019 had the following recommendations:
The subsequent report to Council on the 10th of December 2019 said: "If adopted, the recommendations from the report will help re-position Eurobodalla Shire as an attractive location for both public and private investment, and drive growth and ongoing improvement in nature-based tourism." In that report it states under Financial:
Above: at no point is there any mention of the grant application for $3m supposedly submitted under the Growing Local Economies (GLE) Fund six months earlier on July 1st 2019. Never the less, in December 2019, councillors adopted the strategy that included the action to: Initiating Actions: › Consult with FCNSW about the proposed Mogo Adventure Hub and negotiate partnership arrangements for trail use including approvals, investment, maintenance etc › Establish a mountain bike riders support group › Undertake feasibility investigations into the proposed bike park with skills development and a pump park › Undertake a detailed assessment of the existing trails at Deep Creek Dam and Mogo State Forest to determine priorities for trail upgrading to support the overall Mogo Adventure Hub › Consult with the local community and other stakeholders › Determine cost estimates for implementation of the Mogo Adventure Hub › Seek funding support for the project
As a result of the above being adopted in October 2019 we now have arrived in September 2020 with Council seeking submissions to the project from the community. It now appears that those/your submissions (that are still open to 4:30pm today) and the final report to Council that will ask them to endorse the project and commit Council dollars and resources has been rendered superfluous with last week's announcement by the local member.
Of interest, beyond the fact that due process of local government has been compromised and all but rendered farcical is that when you look at the specific guidelines to the Growing Local Economies fund it clearly states that INELIGIBLE PROJECTS that are NOT supported are those, by example that are: projects that do NOT involve building infrastructure such as dredging or earth works as a sole activity.
In terms of Infrastructure the report to Council in September 2020 stated: It is recommended that the trail head be supported with bike infrastructure such as bike stands, bike washes, trail maps, water refill station, car parking, change rooms and toilets. An aside: The above guidelines require Council, when making application, to provide information on how the project will be operated and or maintained upon completion. If the councillors adopt the Draft Mogo Adventure Trails Hub Masterplan they will also be adopting the following inclusion:
DO THE MATHS: $1.50 per metre x 125kms = $187,500 per year in track maintenance. The $3 million grant to build 125km of track will give $24 per metre for construction. With an excavator at $100 per hour estimate 10 metres accomplishment per hour and you might see the project completed in 12,500 hours. But these questions being asked by the community in their submissions are no longer relevant. If Council vote for the Plan they also vote for the maintenance budget and the ongoing commitment to ensure the trails are maintained, year round, to the standard expected of a travelling mountain bike rider. Maybe it is a good thing these questions are no longer necessary to consider. Importantly, it is more than clear that the councilors have NOT given their approval to the project and are still in receipt of submissions that raise genuine concerns around the ongoing funding require to maintain the tracks, the ownership of the tracks, the rights of Forestry Corp to extract timber from the area, the possible restrictions that will be placed on other existing users such as horse riders, motor cyclists or pedestrians. It is understood that councillors have been provided no information at all on the conditions of the recently announced grant and whether they are required to fund 25%. The councillors that the Beagle has spoken to have indicated their surprise that Council is only now, fifteen months after supposed lodgement, being advised of the grant application itself and the successful determination. Whilst there is now no reason at all to make a submission to the Draft Mogo Adventure Trails Hub Masterplan, as there is no need for a report for the councillors to consider endorsing (because it appears to be a done deal - see below), you might like to put in a submission to say that you find the entire exercise that has nullified due process disappointing. Closing date for submissions: Monday 19 October 2020, 4.30pm To make a submission during the exhibition period, you can:
write a letter addressed to: The General Manager PO Box 99 Moruya NSW 2537
Above: Council's announcement on October 12th. "we'll NOW see 125 km of world class trails built. Now if that isn't earthworks ??? Good thing the earthworks aren't soley the project and they intend to put in some bike racks, signs and bubblers to meet the infrastructure criteria.