Shellharbour Mayor Chris Homer has wiped the embarrassing $16 million airport funding announcement form his record of activities, and was in no mood to explain at the city council's meeting on Tuesday night.
Mr Homer and deputy mayor Kellie Marsh, along with the council's CEO Mike Archer and other staff, flanked Kiama MP Gareth Ward before the cameras on Monday as Mr Ward "announced" the funding to extend Shellharbour Airport's runway.
But they were left with egg on their faces when the Mercury confirmed the money ($15.997 million to be precise) was not actually in last week's NSW Budget.
It had been dedicated several years ago, and included again in budget notes for the Kiama electorate this year because the money had not all been spent.
Mr Ward has blamed Treasury for the mistake, for including old funding in the 2023-24 Budget summaries.
At Tuesday night's council meeting Mr Homer shut down discussion after running through a report of the engagements and events he had attended in the past month.
But among the awards presentations, webinars, graduations, morning teas and media events, there was no mention of the "major funding announcement" he had attended at the airport on Monday.
Mr Homer was asked about this by Labor councillor Maree Duffy-Moon, but would not answer, instead saying it was a matter "for the electorate of Kiama" - Mr Ward.
"That's been answered today ... so I'll hold off on that tonight," Mr Homer said.
Cr Duffy-Moon said it hadn't been explained to the public, but an terse Mr Homer said "we've made statements" on that and moved on.
Labor councillor Cr Rob Petreski wanted to follow up, and asked Mr Homer why, if the $15.9 million funding was a significant announcement, other councillors weren't invited.
Mr Homer said the council was "receiving further advice" from the "electorate of Kiama" on the issue.
Despite it being his Mayoral Report, Mr Homer was in no mood for explaining. He refused to answer Cr Petreski's question, deflecting it towards Mr Ward, sounding increasingly tense as he repeated "that's the end of discussion".
"I've answered the question, we're moving on. That's what I'm ruling," he said.
"Wow," uttered Cr Petreski.
Cr Homer, the chair of the meeting, then moved on to the next item, Mayoral Minutes. There were none.
It was not only Mr Homer and Cr Marsh who were at the airport announcement - several council staff appeared in the group photograph disseminated by Mr Ward.
Apparently none of the attendees had checked how the $16 million commitment, strangely not announced by the NSW Government on Budget night, or since then, was correct.
Nor did some other media outlets, who reported the airport extension plans as issued by Mr Ward.
Mr Homer directed the blame towards Mr Ward, but his treatment of simple questions at Tuesday's meeting suggested he wears some embarrassment himself.
Complicating matters is that the Mercury understands Shellharbour City Council has in fact applied for $18 million in funding from the state for this precise purpose - extending the runway at their airport.
The Mercury has asked the council about this and is awaiting a response.
Labor MPs have questioned whether Mr Ward's mistake was in fact a deliberate ploy, but Mr Ward has blamed Treasury for the way funding is accounted in budget documents.
But Mr Ward said this made "no sense".
"The budget papers I cited yesterday were official documents, provided by Treasury, badged as a summary of expenditure for the Kiama electorate in the financial year 2023/24," Mr Ward said.
"These documents are produced by Treasury and outline investments and projects for the Kiama electorate and include such things as planning for a new school at Calderwood.
"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," he said on Tuesday.
"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?"
Member for Shellharbour said "Gareth Ward is the Donald Trump of the Illawarra and he needs to apologise".