Long-awaited plans for the revitalisation of Wollongong's MacCabe Park have been kept secret from the public for a year because of a lack of funding for the project.
Wollongong City Council confirmed it received a draft design for the planned makeover of the CBD park in October last year, 11 months after it sought ideas from the community to upgrade the neglected precinct.
The council's infrastructure director Peter Kofod said the plans had been withheld from the public, effectively stalling the project, because upgrading the park was considered low on the council's list of CBD priority projects.
"The council decided to assign priorities to projects during deliberation over the community strategic plan and the delivery program and operational plan," Mr Kofod said, referring to the list of documents that guide the council's yearly spend.
"At that stage, the MacCabe Park masterplan project was assigned a lower priority."
A Mercury request to see the draft plan was denied.
Councillors who spoke to the Mercury defended the decision not to publicise the document, claiming that to do so would have unfairly raised people's expectations that the redevelopment would begin immediately.
They said there was simply not enough money to do several major CBD projects at the one time, and the Crown Street Mall upgrade, North Beach Bathers' Pavilion and repairing the city's footpaths took priority over the park.
"We don't have funding for the MacCabe Park redevelopment at the moment," Liberal councillor Michelle Blicavs said.
The project is absent from the council's 2012/13 budget and budget forecasts for the next five years.
However Cr Blicavs said the issue would be revisited if a government grant became available.
Questions to Mr Kofod on whether the council had actively sought external funding for the park were not answered.
Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said it was important that the council spread its resources - both money and attention - throughout the local government area.
"I'm conscious of the fact a lot of people are critical of the amount of money we spend in the city centre," he said.
"West Dapto is demanding a lot of resources, and other suburbs need attention too.
"MacCabe Park is important, but there are other things that are of higher priority."
Cr Bradbery did agree, however, that the draft masterplan should be put out for community consultation so it was "ready to go" if government funding became available.
Wollongong mum Kara Manley, who lives in a CBD unit, disagreed with the council’s assessment, saying it was an important open space for families.
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