Shellharbour City Hub: MPs Anna Watson and Gareth Ward at odds over petition

Shellharbour MP Anna Watson believes fellow parliamentarian Gareth Ward has falsely raised the expectations of people who have signed a petition calling on the NSW government to step in and stop Shellharbour City Council's $57 million City Hub project.

The Stop the Hub community group's petition has reached 10,000 signatures, meaning it can be debated in NSW Parliament's lower house.

"It's simply not good enough for Mr Ward to just table it and make an empty speech of hot air ... 10,000 petitioners are expecting now that he will personally stop the Shellharbour Hub project," Ms Watson said.

"How does Mr Ward intend to stop a local government project when his own former minister for local government Don Page has confirmed the state government has no decision-making authority over it?"

Ms Watson denied she had come out in support of the hub as suggested by the Stop the Hub community group and said she had been consistent when constituents approached her about the project.

"I can see the reasons to support it and the reasons to oppose it, but whatever I think is irrelevant," Ms Watson said.

"This issue is entirely a matter for the seven elected Shellharbour councillors to determine."

Ms Watson said the Stop The Hub group had never asked her to table the petition, however, Mr Ward said out of "professional courtesy" he believed Ms Watson should be asked to table the petition in Parliament because the project was in her electorate.

"Should Ms Watson be unable or unwilling to discharge her responsibilities in this regard, I would be more than happy to table this petition on behalf of concerned residents as my electorate also covers a large and important part of the Shellharbour City area," Mr Ward said.

"For clarity, a 10,000-signature petition provision was introduced by the O'Farrell government to give the community the opportunity to put important matters on the parliamentary agenda ... any resident or group can request any member to table a petition on their behalf.

"I remain opposed to the proposed Shellharbour City Hub due to a lack of consultation and the degree of debt which will be imposed on residents and ratepayers.

"Further, for Ms Watson to suggest that the NSW Parliament is an inappropriate place to have this discussion gives little regard to concerned residents of both of our electorates who have worked to collect this petition and taken the time to sign it."

Stop the Hub Group spokeswoman Diane Quinlin said the group's preference was to have Kiama MP Mr Ward present the petition as Ms Watson had been "negative" about their campaign.


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