Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock to “pursue legislative changes” to pause project she believes as “foolish”, “rash” and “not necessary at this stage”, despite conceding investigations find no inappropriateness with the process. NO.... it isn't the Mackay Park project expected to blow out to over $60m, well beyond its budget of $51m. Even though the councillors have now agreed with how they will make up the shortfall they call THE GAP by selling off public assets and moving money around in their books the Minister for Local Government has not been called in to look closely at this project that would also, to date have so far seen Eurobodalla Council fulfill "all its legislative requirements” In a media release issued today by Greg Warren, Labor Shadow Minister for Local Government he revealed that the Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock, has indicated she intends to strip a council of its democratic right due to a difference of opinion.
Speaking on radio today, Ms Hancock admitted Coffs Harbour Council had “fulfilled all its legislative requirements” regarding its proposal for a $76.5 million cultural and civic space.
Despite the council following due process, the Minister said she would “pursue legislative changes” to pause the project as she believed the project was “foolish”, “rash” and “not necessary at this stage”, despite conceding she had investigated and found no inappropriateness with the process.
“The Minister’s job cannot be to veto projects simply because she doesn’t agree with it.” Shadow Minister for Local Government, Greg Warren said.
"Yesterday, the Minister announced councils would be able to borrow from the state government’s borrowing facility – Tcorp – as part of a stimulus package to kick-start community projects.
"The Minister said the council would not be able to borrow from TCORP to help fund the project, and without the support of Coffs Harbour MP and Coalition colleague, Gurmesh Singh, they would struggle to attain any funds from Tcorp.
“The Minister has essentially said the Council will not be able to borrow funds from Tcorp without her Coalition member’s blessing. There is little doubt that the Eurobodalla Councillors have also looked at borrowing several million dollars from TCorp to fill The Gap having already done so with the adjacent acquisition of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site. That site is now leased to NSW Transport in excess of $80,000 per year that helps pay the interest on the TCORP loan. In regards to the Coffs Harbour project Shadow Minister for Local Government, Greg Warren said “This is not about the project itself, this is about the intervention of a Minister on a local democratic and lawful resolution of that community’s Council.”
“If the community is so outraged by this decision, then it will be reflected in the polls at the next election – that is a matter between those local representatives and their community, not the Minister.”
“The Minister’s actions show she has no respect for councils, no respect for their communities and most concerning, no respect for the democratic process.
“If the Minister succeeds with this fiasco then it will open up a can of worms for every council throughout our state.” To date the Eurobodalla community have been all but railroaded into the Mackay Park project outcome of a facility that has come from a community request for a heated pool and a performance space to being a $60 million dollar complex with a 1000m2 gymnasium, a downgraded 25m pool, a reduced heated pool, a overly shallow learn to swim pool and a theatrette that was reduced from 500 seats to 350. And all with Eurobodalla Council doing its utmost to ensure the community are not privvy to a Business Case that might prove ongoing community affordability. In the end for Eurobodalla it will either be the construction of what many feel will be a disastrous white elephant that the community can NOT afford to maintain (with estimated losses of $2 million per year). Possibly, like the Coffs Harbour project, the only possible intervention to stop the local council from continuing with a project deemed “foolish”, “rash” and “not necessary at this stage” IS to have the intervention of the Minister for Local Government. Of interest is the Shadow Ministers statement around respect saying "she has no respect for councils, no respect for their communities and most concerning, no respect for the democratic process. If the Minister succeeds with this fiasco then it will open up a can of worms for every council throughout our state.” The residents and ratepayers of Eurobodalla have suffered a systematic disrespect by Council of community, and most concerning, a continued disrespect for the democratic process from the outset around the acquisition of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site and the subsequent development of the Mackay Park project. In regards to Mr Warren's statement "If the Minister succeeds with this fiasco then it will open up a can of worms for every council throughout our state" one can only say .... Bring it on.