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Has Eurobodalla Council become embroiled in more pork barrelling?

Political pork barrelling in the Eurobodalla appears to be coming a standard practice. Some history for those who have just arrived: On 29 August 2017, Council held an Extraordinary Meeting to consider a draft business case and concept plans for two options for redevelopment of the Batemans Bay Mackay Park Precinct for a Regional Aquatic Centre and Arts and Cultural Facility. Council resolved to endorse option one, being the development of a Regional Aquatic Arts and Leisure Centre and gateway visitor centre, on the southern part of the precinct for the purpose of seeking grant funding to construct the facility. September 2017 Grant application made in under the provisions of the NSW government's Regional Sports Infrastructure Fund for $18m and Grant application made to the Regional Cultural Fund for $8m.

November 2017, one of the members of the 'save our 50m pool group' requested, from the ESC, a copy of the application that the council had submitted for the grant under the NSW Sports Infrastructure Fund.

On 25 November, 2017 the council rejected that request and provided the following justification for doing so.

“Council has sort (sic) advice from the NSW Office of Sport and the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet who are both involved with the grant applications. Both have confirmed that the applications are treated as commercial in confidence because to release such information would reduce the competitive value of the application placing Council at a competitive disadvantage amongst other bodies competing for the same funding. Council agrees with this position and does not intend to release details of the grant applications.” In February 2018 Eurobodalla Council made two grant applications. The first to the Office of Sport and the second to the Regional Cultural Fund (GIPA Request pending). In early March 2018, Regional Sports Infrastructure Fund informally advise a member of the public that the Sports Grant did not succeed in its application. When asked for a copy of the application by Council the Office of Sport had determined that it was appropriate under the State's 'FOI' legislation that the general public should be given access to copy of council's grant application (with some redactions). However, Sport also advised that, at that stage, they weren't able to immediately release the document because a 3rd party (later revealed to be council) had objected to Sport's decision. Shortly after council formally requested an 'internal review' by Sport of its earlier decision to release the grant application. On 27 April 2018 the Office of Sport accepted the council's arguments and decided that the document should not be publicly released at that time. There was no challenge to that particular decision in the Civil and Administrative Tribunal mainly based on an understanding that the document would probably become publicly available a few months later in early September 2018. It did not. On 19th October 2018 a new 'FOI' request was lodged with the Office of Sport. In response to that request, on 30 November 2018 Sport formally decided that the applicant be given a copy of the grant application (with some redactions).

Once again, council disagreed with that decision and again sought a formal 'internal review' of Sport's decision. However, on this occasion, Sport rejected the ESC's arguments and on 21 January 2019 formally ruled that its November 2018 decision to release the document would stand and, as a consequence, scheduled to provide the document on 12 February – unless, of course, the council chose to exercise its entitlement to appeal against Sport's decision to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Council then mounted a case to the Information Commission that the deadline for a decision on any appeal against Sport's decision should be in late March, not early February, a decision by someone in this council to drag this process out as long as possible. In the end a redacted copy was obtained that revealed that Council had used the Otium Business Case Councillors were briefed on 5 March 2019, involving the third party consultation for two GIPA applications sent to NSW Office of Sport. Jim Bright addressed council the week before at the Ordinary Council Meeting 26 February 2019. What were council trying to hide from the community?

Possibly the fact that they had used the Otium Business Case in their grant application that included the following: 10. Warranties and Disclaimers There will be differences between projected and actual results, because events and circumstances frequently do not occur as expected and those differences may be material. We do not express an opinion as to whether actual results will approximate projected results, nor can we confirm, underwrite or guarantee the achievability of the projections as it is not possible to substantiate assumptions which are based on future events. Neither Otium Planning Group, nor any member or employee of Otium Planning Group, nor any subconsultants engaged in the preparation of this report assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the content of this report. Neither Otium Planning Group, nor any member or employee of Otium Planning group, nor any sub-consultants engaged in the preparation of this report accepts responsibility arising in any way whatsoever to any persons in respect of this report, for any errors or omissions herein, arising through negligence or otherwise however caused, and will not be liable to Eurobodalla Shire Council or any third party in any way for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential or exemplary damages resulting from the use or misuse of this report. Page 38. It should be noted that the financial model does not incorporate sensitivity analysis or depreciation at this stage. This will be done after the base case assumptions and preferred design option have been approved by Council. Further, once the preferred design option and financial modelling has been approved and finalised, an assessment of the economic impact of the facility should be undertaken by Council to support any applications for external funding. Understandably the application to the Office of Sport failed. Anecdotally it also failed to satisfy the requirement that the facility was for the purpose of sport and that there had been no evidence provided by Council of any sporting use or any indication of demand by a sporting group. THIS IS WHERE THE FIRST PORK BARREL CAME INTO PLAY. REMEMBER: In early March 2018, Regional Sports Infrastructure Fund informally advise a member of the public that the Sports Grant did not succeed in its application. Gladys Berejiklian and the Member for Bega the Hon. Andrew Constance came to Batemans Bay on 26 March 2018 to announce $26m of funding towards the construction of the Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre at Mackay Park Batemans Bay. The following day, 27th March 2018, Eurobodalla councillors reaffirmed their commitment to the concept design of the new Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre at Mackay Park, Batemans Bay delivered as a Mayoral Report offering the Councillors only 15 minutes to digest a 1600 word report before adopting it. By doing so the councillors set in place the demise of the Batemans Bay 50m pool and the subterfuge, the secret invitation only meetings, the declaration that business plans are not to be publicly available for reasons of 'Commercial in Confidence'.


26th March 2018 The Bay Post reported "The $26 million in funding includes $18 million for the aquatic centre, and $8 million for the arts and cultural facilities. The funding will come from the NSW Government’s $1.3 billion Regional Growth Fund."


On the 15th August 2018 the Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ asked a question without notice directed to the Minister for Resources, Minister for Energy and Utilities, and Minister for the Arts. The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ: Given the Premier and the member for Bega jointly announced on 26 March that they would provide $26 million for a new indoor aquatic and cultural centre at Batemans Bay consisting of $18 million for the aquatic centre and $8 million for the arts and cultural facility, where will the $8 million for the arts and cultural component be drawn from?"


The Hon. DON HARWIN: As I informed the House yesterday, people should be aware that the Regional Cultural Fund round two is open. I imagine this project would be eligible but I need to check if there is an existing funding agreement.


The Hon. DON HARWIN (Minister for Resources, Minister for Energy and Utilities, and Minister for the Arts) (15:31): I may have covered this question in my answer yesterday but, if I did not, it is planned that round two announcements will be made before the end of this calendar year. I cannot be more specific at this stage.


The Hon. Peter Primrose: It is supposed to be a competitive process and you are announcing it already. What was revealed in Parliament was that the $8 million for the Batemans Bay Mackay Park under Round Two was announced six months before that Round opened without application. In October 2018, much to no-ones surprise, the Mackay Park theatre was Number 1 on the list, with the highest grant awarded in the state. In leaked documents obtained by the ABC it turns out however that in the expert opinion of the grants review panel the Mackay Park project came in at number 72. Documents obtained by the ABC under freedom of information laws reveal the Bega project was overlooked in favour of an $8 million investment to help build the Mackay Park Aquatic, Arts and Cultural Centre. ABC reported that "of the six-person Regional Cultural Fund assessors who made the recommendations about where the money should be sent, four were independent members from the state's arts sector. An executive from the State Government agency Create NSW and a representative from the Department of Premier and Cabinet were also on the panel.


They met for three days in late September 2018, then extended their meeting for a fourth day so each of the 116 successful projects — with a total value of $135 million — could be ranked. The assessors acknowledged only $47 million was available but ranked all the eligible projects so as to allow some ministerial discretion. Of the 159 applications, seven were deemed ineligible because they did not meet the complex entry criteria. Another 35 projects were not recommended for funding for reasons including concerns they lacked community support or were not a genuine arts and cultural project." Of interest in the above is that the the Mackay Park project had already been approved and announced six months earlier in March 2018. That being the case the "complex entry criteria" would not have been an issue, nor evidence of financial sustainability.The Eurobodalla grant application had been given The Nod that it would be in Round Two, six months before the panel met to review the 159 applications. Mayor Liz Innes' reply to Sophie Longden on ABC when questioned about the Cultural grant being awarded to Eurobodalla rather than Bega was "that we had a great business case". (listen here at the 7:54 min mark) It is known that the only business case that existed at the time was the Otium Business Case that warned not to use it for grant applications. When the failed grant application to the Office of Sport was finally released, though heavily redacted, it revealed that Council had used the Otium Business Case. This was most likely the very thing they were afraid would be revealed. THIS IS WHERE THE SECOND PORK BARREL CAME INTO PLAY. There is still a nasty smell lingering around the $25 million dollars that then Federal member for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis, gave the Mackay Park pool just ten days before a Federal election was called on April 11th 2019. The Federal Regional Growth Fund opened for applications in March 2018, and was highly competitive with 337 applications received, seeking total funding of $5.9 billion. Initial applications had to demonstrate claims against three merit criteria; projects had to create jobs, drive economic growth and build stronger regional communities. In October 2018, the Australian Government announced 16 projects to proceed to the second stage. Ann Sudmalis announced that $25 million had been assigned to the Batemans Bay project. " Assigned" .. put aside.... should the project passed the next stage. Clearly NOT awarded These 16 applicants, including Eurobodalla, were invited to submit a full business case for a value for money assessment. The projects approved for funding were also required to reflect the focus of the program to build on a community's existing strengths, re-invigorate industries and tap into regional tourism potential. What is known in regards to the Federal Grant was that the business plan adopted by Council in August 2017 WAS NOT a full business plan and clearly advised it was NOT to be used for the purpose of grant applications. Between October 2018 and April 2019 the application for the $25m was assessed and found to comply.


In an email to FOI@infrastructure.gov.au on 31st October 2018 by The Beagle "The Eurobodalla Shire Council, in having been successful in Round one of the Regional Growth Grants will now be required to prepare a Full Business Case. In a telephone call to your office it was confirmed that candidates are provided a template to assist with that Full Business Case.


For the purpose of news, so as to ascertain if the Full Business Case takes into consideration the ongoing affordability of ratepayers to support such new infrastructure without it becoming a financial burden, I request a copy of the default template to establish what criteria is measured under a Full Business Case and to determine if there is due diligence paid to the proven affordability of such a grant without it becoming a financial risk requiring either a rate increase or a removal of services.


As the Full Business Case template will have no information on it whatsoever I would not consider it impinging on any commercial in confidence. Once the Eurobodalla Council provide their Full Business Case I will be seeking a copy of that document as well."


The formal request for that application has been refused by Council so the application details and business case presented remain unseen.


NOTE: November 2019 The Australian National Audit Office found and revealed that the assessment processes for a separate round of Regional Jobs and Investment Packages (that included Gilmore) were "not to the standard required by the grants administration framework" and that "there was insufficient evidence that each of the more than 60 individuals that undertook the assessments received adequate training. The Mackay Park was awarded $25 million, as per the statement by The Honourable Michael McCormack MP Deputy Prime Minister Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Senator the Honourable Bridget McKenzie Minister for Regional Services Minister for Sport Minister for Local Government and Decentralisation on the 2nd of April 2019 That statement said in part: $25.0 million towards the construction of the Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Precinct at Mackay Park in the Eurobodalla Shire that will improve participation in cultural and community activities by local residents, create local jobs and cater for the 1.3 million visitors to the region each year. This project is expected to increase the number of overnight stays in the region by 25 per cent; NOTE: while the joint statement is from McCormack and McKenzie it is NOT the reported Sports Rorts however the Auditor General has noted that the handling of the previous round of the Regional Growth Fund "Ineligible applications were identified but not all of those identified were removed from further consideration. Various other eligibility requirements relating to the content of applications were not consistently applied."

Note that the requirement in October 2018 of the Federal Regional Growth Fund was for "a full business case for a value for money assessment." The ONLY business case that existed at the time was the Otium Business case of August 2017 . That business case is NOT a FULL business case. That Otium business case, which the Mayor, General Manager and Councillors so often refer to clearly reminds Council that: "Neither Otium Planning Group, nor any member or employee of Otium Planning Group, nor any subconsultants engaged in the preparation of this report assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the content of this report." The very same business case clearly states: It should be noted that the financial model does not incorporate sensitivity analysis or depreciation at this stage. This will be done after the base case assumptions and preferred design option have been approved by Council. Further, once the preferred design option and financial modelling has been approved and finalised, an assessment of the economic impact of the facility should be undertaken by Council to support any applications for external funding. The Mayor told Simon Lauder (June 26th 2020) of ABC South East, when asked about the Mackay Park business case, that "the business case is already released. It is on the Council's website".

VIDEO: note time stamp 5:27 regarding business case. Once again that Business Case the Mayor refers to is the Otium Business case of August 2017This business case is for a completely different building with different components, sizes and seating capacities. The Mayor has stated that Council has updated their costing model, as provided by a Quantity Surveyor, and can not reveal this report as it compromise the tender outcome. What the Mayor, Liz Innes, fails to understand is that the updated building costs calculated by the Quantity Surveyors is NOT a Full Business case that offers, as did the Otium report, the projected incomes based on anticipated turnstyle numbers and the projected overheads of labour and running costs. The Mayor still believes that the Otium projected theatre numbers will be 12 productions per year (page 74) with each running nine days to a full house of 350 for each performance. Those Otium figures also anticipate a minimum loss of $300,000 per year. Councillors have been provided continued evidence of flawed projected incomes in the Otium business case yet continue to accept them as accurate and relevant. Even the Office of Local Government has indicated reservations of the affordability of the project that came in an official letter after Council had initially refused to make available to them a copy of a 2017 economic report to accompany the flawed 2017 projections. Council have now adopted the 2020-2021 budget that makes a commitment to fill THE GAP between the $51 million in grant money held and the now anticipated $70 million project. Councillors were secretly briefed on how they might be able to fill THE GAP by selling off council assets, moving money around in accounts and taking out trans-generational loans however that would only cover the cost of building. The ongoing maintenance and operational costs would have to still be borne by ALL ratepayers as the facility is classified as a REGIONAL centre. With the facility now just a 25m pool, a kiddies pool, a half sized warm water pool for aqua aerobics classes, a splash pad, waterslide, a commercial gym area, a kiosk and a 350 seat theatre there is little that represents a Regional facility that will be willingly financially supported by ratepayers across the Shire. It is more than clear that the Mackay Park Project would NOT have been financed under scrutiny. The $26 million from the State Government was unconditional and the Federal Government's grant of $25 million was not provided the FULL business case as required. What is also clear is that the Council's own Audit and Risk Committee have failed to take note of the alarms raised and that they have failed to apply their own due diligence to the Otium Business Case, its flawed projections and its disclaimers. NOW WE COME TO THE NEXT PORK BARREL. On October 12 2020 the local member announced $3 million from the Growing Local Economies fund to deliver Mogo Adventure Trail upgrades, including upgrading and marking existing tracks and trails and building crucial missing links. The date of October 12th 2020 is IMPORTANT. More questions than answers are rising to the surface and an investigation is now underway into this announcement. Firstly the announcement came as a surprise to the councillors who had called for public submissions to the project that would not close for another week (October 19th). The project had not been signed off at all. It was simply a notional thought-bubble conjured up by a consultant that Council decided it would put out for public feedback. The Councillors were provided a consultant 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, until 4pm on Oct 19th 2020, seven days after the grant announcement, submissions from the public were still 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. By the announcement, it appears that neither the submissions nor the required report required under Council's due process was 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? No. 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. Nevertheless, 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 December 2019 we then arrive at September 2020 with Council seeking submissions to the project from the community. It now appears that public submissions and the final report to Council that will ask them to endorse the project and commit Council dollars (25% contribution) and resources was rendered superfluous with the $3.5 million announcement by the local member. Of interest, beyond the fact that due process of local government was seemingly ignored 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 required Council, when making application, to provide information on how the project will be operated and or maintained upon completion. The councillors, now having adopted the Draft Mogo Adventure Trails Hub Masterplan have now also adopted the following inclusion:

The Councillors, in adopting the Draft Mogo Adventure Trails Hub Masterplan also committed financially to: $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, asked by the community in their submissions were considered irrelevent by councillors who failed to raise a single concern around the financial imposts of the project. Councillors voted for the Plan and in doing so voted 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. It is understood that councillors were provided no information at all on the conditions of the announced grant and whether they have been committed to the required co-contribution of 25%. The councillors that the Beagle spoke to indicated their surprise that Council, fifteen months after the supposed lodgement, were advised of the grant application itself and its successful determination. SO WHERE IS THE PORK IN THIS GRANT? The $3 million announced by the local member for the Mogo Adventure Trails Hub came from the Growing Local Economies (GLE) Fund applied for on 1 July 2019 The Growing Local Economies fund applied a temporary pause on new applications that started from midnight 14 July 2019 announcing the fund would not be open to new applications from that date until further notice and that the GLE program would re-open once the review has been completed stating "Further updates will be posted on this webpage https://www.nsw.gov.au/regional-growth-fund/growing-local-economies" That website continues to advise there is a Temporary pause on new applications


Yet, here we have a local member announcing, on October 12 2020, a full fifteen months after the application was lodged, that $3 million from the Growing Local Economies fund had been granted to deliver Mogo Adventure Trail upgrades, including upgrading and marking existing tracks and trails and building crucial missing links. The following questions are just a few that need to be asked: Why did it take fifteen months to process this grant? How did this grant make it through Step Two when it did not meet the prerequisite guidelines. How can the grant be awarded to a project that does not have community endorsement Why is there no reference to the required 25% co-contribution and why are councillors unaware of this requirement. Where is the Council agenda item that accepts this grant and the conditions of this grant. If the fund is under the control of The Hon John Barilaro Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW why didn't he make the announcement. An investigation is now under way to establish if any other NSW Council received funds from the Growing Local Economies a full fifteen months after applications closed and if they met the application guidelines and criteria whilst committing to a minimum financial co-contribution of 25 per cent of the total grant amount. It is essential to remember that successful applicants in Step One were required to provide significantly more detail regarding their project, including information on their ability to carry out the project in the appropriate time frame and the competitiveness of the proposal against factors such as value for money, sustainability and the level of contingency/risk and that projects must demonstrate a Cost Benefit Ratio above 1.0. This may well by why Council's Director of Planning said the proposed trails network "has the potential to attract 45,000 visitors to Eurobodalla in its first year of operation, resulting in an estimated $11.8 million injection to the local economy." Must is NOT "has the potential" remembering that the announcement of the $3 million came before public consultation closed and Councillors had formally considered the submissions received during public exhibition and to adoption of the Mogo Adventure Trails Hub Master Plan (draft) And once again we see in Councils December 8th 2020 report the following "A proposed development budget and staging plan for the detailed design and construction of the trails is provided as a Confidential attachment, as it contains commercial information of a confidential nature." Note that only $300,000 was voted into the NSW Budget in 2020-21 (as part of a $3 million project) for the Mogo Adventure Trails Hub AS FOR THE LATEST ALLEGED PORK BARREL REVEAL? Bushfire Rorts: Coalition targets bushfire recovery funds for Coalition seats

Once again Eurobodalla has fallen into the spotlight of a pork barrelling investigation. Federal and state funds for bushfire recovery have been heavily skewed in favour of state Coalition seats with NSW State Labor picking up just 1% of $177 million handed out. Elizabeth Minter of Michael West Media investigates: Fast-tracking projects meant there was no need for any of the projects to have a business plan. Take the $5.3 million for a 33-kilometre Coastal Trail linking the headlands and beaches of Batemans Bay’s southern shores that was given to Eurobodalla Shire Council, in the state electorate of Bega, held by the Liberals Transport Minister Andrew Constance. In a letter to a local residents group, the general manager of Eurobodalla Shire Council confirmed a bushfire grant application had not been submitted: “While Council did not officially submit an application for funding for this project [Batemans Bay Coastal Headland walk] under the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery fund, the Government was aware of this project.” A May 2019 feasibility study prepared by consultants for the shire council noted that the coastal trail project had no route, no costings, no business plan and no evidence of consultation with the community. The trail was only notionally endorsed by shire councillors one month after the funding announcement. Without a route, could the trail really be described as “shovel ready”? Read the full article HERE

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