No agreement in place

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.

Dr Gillespie this week reviewed Greater Taree City Council's Freedom of Information (FOI) request response and declared that the "documents clearly highlight the fact that council had no agreement in place, despite the former government promising funding as far back as 2010."

"On the advice I have received from the Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, I have been able to ascertain that while a commitment by the former government was announced in the 2011 Budget for the Greater Taree Roads and Bridges package as part of its 2010 election promise, discretion for the allocation of funding was left to the former minister through an existing Labor program called Community Infrastructure Grants, which now no longer exists. This is quite evident in the Freedom of Information documents," Dr Gillespie said.

"When that commitment was made in 2010, if I was council, I would have been holding the former member and the Labor government to account soon after. When no specific funding was allocated towards the project in the 2011 Budget, I would have been screaming the house down. And in 2012, when council was only offered $1.1 million instead of the $12.5-million apparently promised, I would have begun protesting in the streets.

"I think it is now time the mayor turned his attention to the general manager and started asking some serious questions about why an extension was sought by council on the 2012 agreed milestones and why were 'stage 1 milestones' only completed just prior to last year's election? The taxpayers of Australia deserve to know where their money is being spent and for a grant of this size a contract is rightly required, why did the council not act to put this in place so the money could be spent efficiently?

"It is now becoming clearer that council dropped the ball in holding the former government to account in delivering on its election promises."

Greater Taree City Council mayor Paul Hogan defended council's actions in the federal funding processes, including the decision to seek an extension on the stage 1 milestones. He explained that the project had four major components, Dyers Crossing Bridge, Dickensens Bridge, Manning Point Road and Gloucester Road.

"Each component required extensive design work and the funding agreement provided by the department for stage 1 included a mechanism to consider and approve variations of time, scope or cost," Cr Hogan said.

"The department considered the original stage 1 timeframes, which was expected by December 2012, and were satisfied that due to the complexity and variety of the projects being investigated and designed, approved a variation of time.

"The department was happy with the progress being made and fully supported the revised completion date of June 28, 2013."

Cr Hogan said the project was staged.

"Funds were carried over in subsequent budgets while council contracted the relevant design and investigation work in compliance with the stage 1 agreement and in readiness for entering the stage 2 agreement for construction," he explained.

Cr Hogan reiterated the statement of deputy prime minister, Warren Truss about the CIG program.

Mr Truss stated that "the Australian government will also fund projects that were left uncontracted under the former Labor Government's Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) (Rounds 2,3 and 4) and Community Infrastructure Grants Program (CIG)."

"Why doesn't Dr Gillespie want to deliver these funds as outlined by the deputy prime minister in his statement of December 4, 2013?" Cr Hogan added.

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