Council has proof of roads and bridges funding

GREATER Taree City Council is armed with documents sourced using the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act that prove funds for the Greater Taree Roads and Bridges Package was carried forward into the 2012-13 and 2013-14 federal budget.

Council sought proof of the funding allocation to the Community Infrastructure Grants Program (CIG) in the wake of statements made by federal member for Lyne, David Gillespie, that "there was never any funds appropriated for these projects" and that they were "unfunded Labor Party promises."

The issue continues to polarise Dr Gillespie and council and is the catalyst for a very public and increasingly emotional political fight as both parties fight to communicate their differing views to voters.

LYNE MP David Gillespie is resolute in his view that Greater Taree City Council has no claim to stage 2 funding of $11.4 million for the Greater Taree Roads and Bridges Package.

The fight to prove who is right has seen Dr Gillespie post a letter and survey into the mailboxes of more than 20,000 households and fund a print media advertising campaign.

Mayor Paul Hogan fronted frustrated and angry residents at a series of face-to-face meetings at locations that were to get critical infrastructure works under the roads and bridges package. The meetings saw Cr Hogan present council's facts about its participation in the federal government funding processes.

Council's most recent move is the FOI request and a direct letter to deputy prime minister, Warren Truss, seeking a meeting to present council's position.

Dr Gillespie met with Cr Hogan, general manager Gerard Jose and seven councillors on January 29 in Taree to try to find common ground on the issue. The outcome of that meeting was that council requested Dr Gillespie seek an urgent meeting with deputy prime minister, Warren Truss. At the time of going to print, the status of the request for an urgent meeting was, "We are in the process of working out a day in March," according to Dr Gillespie. Council also informed Dr Gillespie that it had submitted a FOI request to source documents to prove the funding was carried forward into the 2012-13 and 2013-14 federal budgets.

Since that meeting council received its response to the FOI request and, in part it states that the "money was carried forward into both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 budgets." It also reveals that, "In December 2013, the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) 2013-14 was published by the newly formed government. This document shows the cessation of the CIG program and removal of funding for that program."

The FOI request information was provided to Dr Gillespie's office on Wednesday and it elicited a scathing response from the National Party MP about council's management of the funding process. 

Cr Hogan branded Dr Gillespie's response "another distraction" and confirmed that this week he wrote directly to Mr Truss seeking a meeting to present council's position in relation to the withdrawal of federal government funding.

The letter dated February 10, outlines the information revealed in the FOI response and Cr Hogan's perspective on the representation of the issue by Mr Gillespie.

"When we raised the matter with Dr David Gillespie, member for Lyne back in December 2013, he was emphatic in his statements to our community and council that 'there was never any funds appropriated for these projects', and that they were 'unfunded Labor Party promises', and repeated this statement at a meeting last week with council.

"This council has been ridiculed by the local member and given the response to a Freedom of Information request.

"There has been significant public interest in these claims by Dr Gillespie MP, as he has repeated them ad-nauseum on the radio, TV, local press and through letters from his office written to over 20,000 households in the Manning Valley."

Cr Hogan is perplexed about Mr Gillespie's actions in relation to this federal funding issue.

"This is about our community and the impact on our community," Cr Hogan said.

"This is critical infrastructure. We need these roads and bridges.

"Our communities of Dyers Crossing, Moto, Manning Point Road and Gloucester Road have banded together to demonstrate the importance of this project. Why doesn't Mr Gillespie seem to care?"

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