Grand Walk backed amid budget review

Wollongong councillor Greg Petty has lost a bid to postpone the Grand Pacific Walk master plan’s public exhibition until after the council’s financial position is better understood.

Cr Petty wanted to wait until after the Citizens Panel report into council’s financial stability was handed down on November 5, amid fears too much money was being spent on new capital works projects and existing infrastructure was being neglected.

The council voted unanimously to endorse the public exhibition of the master plan at Monday night’s council meeting, but not before Cr Petty raised his concerns.

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Speaking to the Mercury yesterday, Cr Petty said the council should be allocating more money to ‘‘renewals’’ – such as the dilapidated Mount Keira Summit Park function centre and the road up to it.

‘‘My concern is not about the Grand Pacific Walk project, my concern is about the fact we have a financial sustainability review panel currently investigating the long-term finances of council,’’ he said.

‘‘All my motion sought to do was to lay the matter on the table until councillors had the opportunity to hear the results of the panel.’’

Part one of the Grand Pacific Walk has been shortlisted for funding from the Port Kembla Infrastructure Fund.

However, Cr Petty said the project’s cost had ballooned since being priced at $2.7 million in March 2010.

 He said estimates now put the project at $7.2 million, and there was a chance that would increase.

During the meeting, long-time proponent of the walk Councillor Leigh Colacino criticised Cr Petty for wanting to delay the master plan’s public exhibition.

‘‘I can’t see there would be any reason to go against this ... if we took it off the table right now we could possibly lose $5million in state funding.’’

Cr Colacino said that once completed, the walk would unite communities in the north of

 Wollongong and would be an international tourist drawcard.

The proposal aims to create a shared pathway along the coast, eventually linking the Royal National Park to Lake Illawarra.

Mount Keira’s dilapidated Summit Park. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODO

Mount Keira’s dilapidated Summit Park. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODO

 The proposed path would run parallel to the Grand Pacific Drive route, and encourage tourists and locals  to stop along the way to take in the views, enjoy a coffee  or check out nearby attractions.