A pair of bypasses have sparked a political spat between Kiama MP Gareth Ward and Shellharbour City Mayor Marianne Saliba.
Mr Ward blasted Ms Saliba, claiming her council was “blackmailing” the state government by dragging its feet on the Albion Park Rail bypass.
Cr Saliba refuted this, suggesting Mr Ward – “the chief campaign director” for the Liberals’ run in council elections – was indulging in a political “stunt” aimed to help his party’s candidate for mayor in Nathan Cattell.
At the heart of the stoush are two bypasses – the well-known Albion Park Rail Bypass, and the lesser-known Albion Park Bypass.
The latter would see an extension of Tripoli Way to allow motorists to avoid the increasingly busy Tongarra Road.
The former is a state government project, the latter a Shellharbour City Council project.
Council-owned land at the Croome Road Sporting Complex is required for the Albion Park Rail Bypass.
READ MORE: Is Albion Park Rail Bypass over budget?
Mr Ward alleged council is intentionally delaying the land transfer because it wants the government to pay for the Tripoli Way extension.
“They’re blackmailing us, they’re saying they want the money for the Albion Park Bypass, which is a local road and hence their responsibility,” Mr Ward said.
“As a result they are seeking to frustrate the Albion Park Rail Bypass and the transfer of land.”
He said that if Mr Cattell was elected, he would move to push through the land transfer.
Cr Saliba refuted this suggestion that Labor was delaying the Albion Park Rail Bypass, stating Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) had changed aspects of the proposal and a council officer deemed them “significant” enough to warrant re-exhibition.
She said council was fully planning to pay for the Tripoli Way work and would look to bring its construction forward to coincide with the Albion Park Rail Bypass.
She said the council was only requesting RMS include on and off-ramps to connect it to the Albion Park Rail Bypass.
“Shellharbour Council has been very very co-operative with RMS,” Cr Saliba said.
“We have agreed for them to go through the Croome Road Sporting Complex, which will save them tens of millions of dollars, which will be a disadvantage to our community because the complex will be cut in half.”
Cr Saliba said Mr Ward’s claims were nothing more than “politicking”.
“Gareth Ward’s accusations are utterly unfounded,” she said.
“They are based on a political stunt to support his candidate for the upcoming Shellharbour council elections.”