More details of the “blackmail” meeting Kiama MP Gareth Ward had with Roads and Maritime Services have emerged.
This is the meeting that led to Mr Ward attacking Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba, claiming her council was “blackmailing” the government by delaying property acquisition for the Albion Park Rail Bypass in order to get funds for their own project – the Albion Park Bypass.
Cr Saliba has refuted the allegations and moved to refer Mr Ward to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
On the afternoon of August 4, Mr Ward met with senior RMS managers in the group’s office on Crown Street.
“I sat in a briefing and I was told that the council staff made it clear that they would not proceed with the Croome Road acquisition until they had some satisfactory support from the government on the Albion Park Bypass,” Mr Ward said.
“It was clear to [the RMS managers] that they (council) wanted funding for the Albion Park Bypass, which is a council responsibility, and they would quite happily go slow until they got their way.”
Mr Ward also said that the RMS senior managers "did say to me that Marianne knew”.
He then said he “sought advice from other people that I know who would know inside of Shellharbour City Council” before going public.
While RMS said the bypass was “on track”, Mr Ward had more immediate concerns for the sporting groups that use the Croome Road complex.
“The reality is that we wanted to move sporting fields now because those sporting fields often are season-sensitive,” he said.
“We need to make sure we have them out of their old facilities and into their new ones in a time frame that benefits them.”