Council votes against lake handover plan

Wollongong  councillors have rejected a NSW government plan to hand over millions of dollars in Lake Illawarra infrastructure and management costs unless it guarantees more than $22 million in funding over the next 10 years.

Following the axing of the Lake Illawarra Authority (LIA) last year, the government flagged a plan to hand over more than $6.5 million in foreshore assets and land to the council.

It also proposed that Government Property should acquire development land along King Street in Warrawong, and said Berkeley Harbour would be used by the government as an operational port.

Council staff said this would leave the city unable to match previous funding and without a budget to fund any upgrades or unexpected maintenance.

At Monday night's meeting, Labor councillor Chris Connor said this was unacceptable. Instead he proposed that the council only accept responsibility for lake infrastructure if all land was included and funding was guaranteed.

He said the government should establish a $4.25million fund to pay for asset depreciation, as well as an $18million management fund to aid the council for the next 10 years.

Councillors from all parties enthusiastically supported Cr Connor's plan. Only one councillor - independent Greg Petty - voted against as he did not agree with asking for specific amounts of money.

Labor councillor David Brown said it was the "height of arrogance to cherry-pick" the best land for government use while leaving the council with other maintenance and repair costs.

"This is an attempt at clear cost-shifting that we will not accept," he said.

Independent councillor Vicki Curran said the motion would send a clear message to the government, but she wasn't sure $18 million would be enough to cover the costs of lake maintenance into the future.

Even the three Liberal councillors spoke in support of the council's stance. Cr John Dorahy said there were "too many red flags" in the government's plan.

Leigh Colacino said he supported the eventual transfer of Lake Illawarra lands, but the state needed to hand over "all or nothing" and make a clear funding commitment.

"It's common sense, because we have to protect our council and our community," he said.

Likewise, Bede Crasnich agreed to support the funding request, but said it was unlikely the government would give the council the full $22.5 million.

Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said residents needed to know the financial burden the government was placing on the council.

He indicated the cost of maintaining infrastructure and lands around the lake could lead to another financial sustainability review.


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