Port lease shortlist 'a rort'

WOLLONGONG ADVERTISER

A shortlist of infrastructure projects for the $100million from the Port Kembla lease has attracted widespread criticism.

Wollongong MP Noreen Hay labelled the scheme a ‘‘rort’’, accusing the state government of pork barrelling by including Wingecarribee projects.

None of the projects will benefit Port Kembla directly and Kiama MP Gareth Ward said no applications were received from Port Kembla.

But Port Kembla Cricket Club committee member James Ralston said the club had submitted a proposal to renovate its King George V Oval clubhouse for $700,000, so it could be used by the whole community. Mr Ralston said the club only learnt about the fund at the last minute and had no time to submit detailed drawings.

‘‘People from Unanderra, Berkeley, Lake Heights, Cringila – the suburbs that have dealt with the expansion of the port – there’s nothing on the list or for not-for-profit community organisations,’’ he said.

Save Our Ports member Olive Rodwell said the organisation was angry and disappointed because Port Kembla, Cringila, Lake Heights and Warrawong did not get anything.

‘‘It’s been a done deal from the start,’’ she said.

Mr Ward announced last Thursday that 20 projects had made the shortlist for the Restart NSW Illawarra Infrastructure Fund, whittled down from 124 applications following consultation.

The consultation was with the community and the Local Leaders Group, made up of local business, union and University of Wollongong representatives.

The fund, allocated $100 million from the port’s long-term lease, was open to infrastructure projects from Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama, Shoalhaven and Wingecarribee. Nine of the shortlisted projects are from Wollongong,  two from Kiama, two from Shellharbour, three from Shoalhaven and four from Wingecarribee. The total amount requested was $172million.

A public meeting was held at Wollongong Town Hall last week to gauge support for the projects and further meetings were planned. The applicants would then provide more detailed submissions, before a final recommendation was made by an Infrastructure  NSW assessment panel made up of Colin Bloomfield, Gerard Sutton and Alex Darling in November. The NSW cabinet would make the final decision.

Mr Ward said the best projects were those that generated the most jobs.

‘‘This is public money we’re dealing with, they need to stack up and justify why they would be a good project for the region.’’

Mrs Hay said she was disgusted by the shortlist but not because the projects weren’t worthwhile.

‘‘In the main, they are projects that should have been invested in by the state government ... such as Bulli Hospital and the SES centre,’’ she said.

She had submitted requests for a Port Kembla revitalisation fund, Unanderra railway station lifts and a Wollongong convention centre, but all had been ignored.

‘‘Where are the significant, job-creating proposals for the Wollongong area? I think it’s been a rort [from the start].’’

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery questioned why Bulli Hospital made the shortlist and couldn’t be funded by the government, but was pleased most of the projects were in Wollongong.

‘‘This city has borne the load of the port, not only the impact on local roads and noise but we’re also the major source of employment for that port,’’ he said.

Three Wollongong council projects made the shortlist: the Fowlers Road link to West Dapto, the Bald Hill improvement project and Grand Pacific Walk stage 1. Cr Bradbery was keen on the link because it ‘‘had immense implications for the entire city’’.

South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur  Rorris said it was unfortunate Maldon-Dombarton rail link was not included. The money should go into new projects and not as replacement for existing government spending, he said.

Wollongong projects on shortlist:

 ■ Fowlers Road link to West Dapto ($22.5million sought)

■ South Coast football complex, West Dapto ($7.8m)

■ iAccelerate UOW IT facility ($20m)

■ Bulli Hospital aged-care centre ($14.4m)

■ Warrigal Care 120-bed aged-care facility ($20m)

■ IRT Kanahooka centre for aged with intellectual disability ($2.9m)

■ Bald Hill improvement project ($5.8m)

■ Grand Pacific Walk stage 1 Royal National Park to Lake Illawarra ($5m)

■ SES headquarters stage 2 ($0.6m)

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop