State Labor MPs have questioned whether Kiama MP Gareth Ward knowingly misled the community or made a mistake when he incorrectly announced funding for Shellharbour Airport on Monday.
Mr Ward, joined by Shellharbour City Council mayor Chris Homer and deputy mayor Kellie Marsh, announced $15.977 million for Shellharbour Airport which he told reporters would be used to upgrade the runway to allow for national budget carriers to fly into Shellharbour Airport.
This was widely reported by other media outlets on Monday afternoon, however the Illawarra Mercury confirmed later that evening that the money was not new and in fact was the same money that Mr Ward announced in 2019 to fund the upgrade of Shellharbour Airport, including upgrades to the terminal which are now largely complete and the business park, which is still underway.
Mr Ward said the mishap was the result of budget papers provided to his office that listed the funding for the Kiama electorate in this year's budget.
"It makes absolutely no sense that a Labor Government would include projects that were funded four years ago by the Coalition government in their first budget. Why would money allocated four years ago, approved by a former government, appear in a budget summary which sets out projects for the forthcoming financial year?"
Funds allocated under the Restart NSW program remain in the budget until complete, and a review of budget papers back to 2019-20 show that the same money was included in each year under the same name.
"There is a residual committed balance of $1.644 million to acquit the project this financial year," a spokesman for Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said.
Shellharbour MP Anna Watson called on Mr Ward to apologise.
"You cannot ever mislead the community, that is the worst thing you can do as a politician," she said.
"He needs to apologise for what he did yesterday."
The Shellharbour Airport sits within Mr Ward's electorate but abuts Ms Watson's electorate. Ms Watson said it would be normal practice for an announcement of this size to include both local MPs, as it affects both, and that Mr Ward did not notify her of the announcement prior to making it on Monday afternoon.
Labor upper house MP Sarah Kaine echoed Ms Watson's calls, questioning how Mr Ward could have incorrectly announced the funding.
"The fact is, he has either knowingly mislead the community, or does not understand the budget papers and has not continued to monitor local investment in his community."
Shellharbour Mayor Chris Homer said he attended the media conference based on the information given to him by Mr Ward but the lack of funding was "obviously disappointing".
"It is unfortunate but that's the way it played out."
The Mercury has sent further questions to Shellharbour Council.
Mr Ward has been the Kiama MP since 2011 and was previously a councillor for Shoalhaven City Council, first elected in 2004.
"He is a seasoned politician," Ms Watson said. "He knows how to read Budget papers and he would know that money was not in the budget for that project."
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