Lake Illawarra plan stalled until state funds committed

Lake Illawarra’s new management has been put on hold by Wollongong City Council, after councillors demanded a firm financial commitment from the state government.

The council was last night due to decide on the structure of an estuary management committee for the lake, after the NSW government scrapped the former Lake Illawarra Authority more than six months ago.

The new committee was to be jointly formed with Shellharbour council, with the two councils spending $150,000 annually on the committee.

Wollongong would supply $100,000 and Shellharbour $50,000.

Sun rises on new deal for Lake Illawarra

However, these plans crumbled after several councillors voiced their concerns about the ongoing costs associated with the management of the lake.

Vicki Curran pointed out that the former Authority had cost the state government $962,000, while the new management committee would have just $150,000 invested.

Cr Ann Martin made the remark that this amount ‘‘would not even mow the grass’’ around the lake under the new committee.

Deputy Lord Mayor Chris Connor said the state government was transferring ‘‘millions of dollars’’ in costs and responsibilities onto the two councils and needed to be held to account before any decisions on the committee were made.

‘‘I just see this at the moment as a great impost upon this council, an enormous financial hole that we’re going to throw buckets and buckets of money into, into the future,’’ he said.

‘‘The state government will gradually withdraw all its financial support over time, and we and Shellharbour [council] will be left with the management of the lake.’’

He said the council was due to inherit responsibility for wharves, stormwater drains, buildings and ‘‘other traps’’, and called on a stronger commitment of funds from the state government.

In a heated speech, Labor’s Janice Kershaw hit out at the government, moving a motion that ‘‘the establishment of the Lake Illawarra estuary management committee be deferred until the state government gives a firm commitment to the budgetary allocation’’.

She said she could not support a further financial commitment to the lake in light of the council’s financial sustainability review.

‘‘This is nothing but cost shifting, no wonder the previous Lake Illawarra Authority was abandoned because now it’s being foisted onto Shellharbour and Wollongong councils,’’ Cr Kershaw said. 

‘‘We’re talking about transferring this land to us – why would we want it? We can’t even manage and pay for what we’ve got now.’’

‘‘We’re putting out to our community that we want to put our rates up and cut back services, but we have no idea what this is going to cost us.’’

‘‘Let’s be realistic, there’s no way we should do any of this.’’

Councillors unanimously voted to support Cr Kershaw’s motion, and also called for a separate report to come before the council next year about the full cost of managing the lake and its surrounding assets.

Shellharbour council will consider the estuary management committee at Tuesday night’s meeting.

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