Council rejects bid to investigate joint Gong Shuttle funding

Liberal councillor Cameron Walters.
Liberal councillor Cameron Walters.

A Liberal councillor’s attempt to find out what it would cost for Wollongong City Council and the University of Wollongong to keep the Gong Shuttle free failed at Monday night’s council meeting.

Cameron Walters – who works for Illawarra Parliamentary Secretary Gareth Ward – raised a “matter of great urgency” calling for an investigation into how much it would take for the council and UOW to each fund 12.5 per cent of the shuttle’s cost.

This, he told the Mercury ahead of the meeting, could have allowed the service to remain free for users.

According to Mr Ward, the NSW Government will continue to subsidise 75 per cent of the cost of the service (as it does for all public transport) even after the introduction of fares.

Mr Ward – who has supported his government’s decision to introduce fares – has already written to both Wollongong organisations to suggest they “make a contribution” towards the Gong Shuttle subsidy that the NSW Government will take away from January 28.

While Cr Walters has been a vocal opponent of having fares on the free bus since the decision was announced, he told the Mercury he was proposing his motion as he did not think it was likely the government would change its mind.

“We need to do this now, and make sure we’re asking the questions, because if you look at state parliament it doesn’t look like we’re getting anywhere,” Cr Walters said.

“All I’m saying, is let’s go away, let’s have a look. We need to know if there’s a legitimacy to these ideas.”

“You’ve got to play with the cards you’re dealt. We’ve just got to look at every option – it would be dismissive to say that it’s [the state funding] or nothing, because the bus is such a great thing for the community.”

He asked that the council’s general manager David Farmer instigate discussions with UOW and Transport for NSW to see what it would cost to fund the shuttle, and report back to councillors before the end of the year.

However, a majority of councillors stamped out Cr Walters’ move before it could be debated on the floor of council.

Only the three Liberal councillors, Leigh Colacino, John Dorahy and Cr Walters, along with independent Dom Figliomeni voted that the urgent motion should proceed to a discussion.

All Labor and Greens councillors voted against the move, while Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery was absent from the meeting.

Last week, Cr Bradbery said he did not support the council making a contribution, as the service was “not just for the people of the Wollongong CBD” and should be funded by the state.