MEMBER for Myall Lakes, Stephen Bromhead has responded to claims by the mayor of Greater Taree City Council, Paul Hogan that the NSW government and federal coalition is "dissolving" the Northern Gateway project.
Councillor Hogan made these claims in the media last week.
Mr Bromhead said that more than seven months had elapsed since he first met with Sharon Fowle, executive officer of Manning Valley Chamber of Commerce and several board members of the chamber to discuss the Northern Gateway project.
"I met with the chamber's officers on February 7 this year where they provided me with a brief outline of their intention to apply for $15m Round 4 of funding from Regional Development Australia (RDA)," Mr Bromhead said.
"A week or so later Cr Hogan asked me to set up a meeting with deputy premier Andrew Stoner, who is also the minister for trade and investment, regarding council's funding application.
"On February 28 I met with Minister Stoner, Cr Hogan and Laura Black from council and for the first time a copy of the federal funding application was given to me in which council had sought $15 million from RDA
"Council said that $7.5 million in funding will be required from the NSW government.
"Minister Stoner and I gave a commitment that an application for funding will receive 'serious consideration', but no funding commitment was given.
"In fact, council was urged to contact the local NSW Trade and Investment (DTI) office so they could begin the process of assessing the project's business case.
"What's more, the minister and I told council that applying for funding is a competitive process as there are many projects across NSW for which funding is required," Mr Bromhead said.
Minister Stoner wrote to council reiterating the government's commitment for "serious consideration" to be given if council was successful in receiving federal funding. The letter also advised that council needed to apply for funding and provided details of the supporting information required.
In March 2013, two emails were sent by DTI to council advising them that any funding application must be made in writing and must be substantiated by supporting documentation and evidence of the project's support, to enable an application to be assessed.
After the second email, council replied that a consultant had been engaged by them to assist with the application and further documentation required.
On June 6 a media release from the then federal member for Lyne announced council's successful application for federal funding but for only $10 million and not the $15 million council said they needed from the RDA.
The next contact from council was by letter on June 7 which stated that they "would appreciate your immediate and favourable consideration of this request?".
Mr Bromhead said that it must be highlighted that at this date no application or supporting documents for State funding had been lodged.
Minister Stoner had subsequently written to council asking them to contact the local DTI office as a matter of priority in order to provide the information required to enable an assessment.
"In late June I rang Cr Hogan to tell him that no application and supporting material had been received. He told me that he was unaware that this material was required and said he would look into it," Mr Bromhead said.
"On July 5, during discussions between DTI and council's general manager, the importance was stressed of being able to identify the Northern Gateway project with other linked projects, so as to enable the NSW Government to analyse the cost/benefits to NSW."
On July 18, council provided a 'first draft' of the requested data indicating that the project was now focussed on a $7.5 million upgrade of Dawson River Bridge, which is a significant realignment of the original proposal.
"Council further advised that the Manning Valley Chamber of Commerce had carriage of the funding application process.
"I find this strange, as on August 5 the chamber advised me that it was the first they had heard of this," Mr Bromhead said.
"On August 6 I met with Crs Hogan and Tickle and council officers and raised the fact the chamber and economic development manager were unaware council had given them carriage of the matter.
"Council told me that in their view the economic development manager 'isn't putting all his cogs into gear'.
"On September 3, a meeting between DTI and Cr Hogan was held where the deficiencies in the supporting documents supplied were explained for the application to be successful. These include the project links to private companies who support the project.
"Council said many of the supporting documentation is 'commercial in confidence' and cannot be given to DTI. This is nonsense for funding applications as DTI deal with this type of document every day," Mr Bromhead said.
Mr Bromhead said that as at Friday September 6 council had still not provided all the information required by DTI.
"As the proponent of the project, council must work with DTI and lodge a detailed business case to enable a full analysis of the project.
"The mayor knows this but is blaming others for his council's months of inaction. Council has even tried to blame the chamber and its economic development manager.
"The days of 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink' under NSW Labor are over. Now, good governance, accountability and transparency are required in every transaction with this government.
"I have supported this project from the start as it will bring economic development to Taree and the region.
"If council is serious about this project I urge them to work with their two local MPs, David Gillespie and me and the relevant government departments.
"It is a shame that Cr Hogan chose to use the media to deflect the blame for seven months of inaction when he knows that all the problems with project are being caused by council's inability to meet the requisite standards for all funding applications.
"Council's shoddy paperwork is another example of their incompetence.
"The mayor is trying to cover up this incompetence by blaming others when he should look in the mirror.
"It's all very well for an ALP member to support his Labor and independent mates but this is not how to do it," Mr Bromhead said.