"THE Abbott Government has declared war on us..."
Tinonee resident, Terry Stanton was referring to the Manning Valley when he made this statement at a special meeting called by Greater Taree City Council on Wednesday night.
Mr Stanton was one of five members of the public who spoke prior to council considering its response to Lyne MP David Gillespie's so-called "Manning Valley Better Roads Survey" "so-called" because the majority of speakers challenged its validity.
Dr Gillespie had been invited by council to attend the meeting but he was in Canberra.
"A survey has objectivity, independence and draws on a statistically valid base," mayor Paul Hogan said. "This questionnaire meets none of these criteria."
Dr Gillespie, in a press release last Friday, said: "The community wants council to start listening. The community wants council to start acknowledging the problems and look at better and more efficient ways of delivering infrastructure and services. The community also wants council to understand their priorities."
The mayor began Wednesday night's meeting by saying council should not walk away from this issue, the issue being the withdrawal of $11.4 million of federal funding for the Greater Taree Roads and Bridges Package, secured by the previous federal member, Rob Oakeshott.
The first speaker, Christine Stanton from Tinonee, said she was "appalled by the stance Dr Gillespie is taking."
"Our mayor has been making a very dignified but forceful response to Dr Gillespie and in return has received a slap in the face a slap in the face to our community.
"Our community is in great need. We are asking for money that has been paid by us through taxes.
"Our Dr Gillespie should be screaming in the streets, not shovelling the dirt."
Harrington resident Nawal Maharaj studied the questionnaire results in detail and found errors there were 2314 respondents but 2679 roadworks were identified by those respondents.
He also opposed the language Dr Gillespie used in calling the respondents "households".
"I think GTCC does a pretty good job in difficult circumstances," Terry Stanton said.
"(Former Lyne MP) Rob Oakeshott got us Australian Government money for the Northern Gateway transport hub. Mr Oakeshott was working with us.
"But Dr Gillespie came to power six months ago and his government took money away from GTCC. In what way is Dr Gillespie working with us?
"Has Dr Gillespie done anything at all to make sure the government gives us money for roads and bridges? No.
"What is he doing? Absolutely nothing.
"He is asking our mayor to ask a federal minister to take money away from one project for another. It's a trap and Dr Gillespie thinks you are all stupid enough to run into it."
Mr Stanton labellled the questionnaire as "propaganda to get the people of GTCC to turn on themselves."
Taree businessman, Graham Brown said he had been a critic of GTCC for many years - critical of the council and the system.
"Local government is under-funded. It's not the people's fault, it is the system."
Mr Brown said business in the Manning Valley was hurting economically. He has been in discussion with "major players" interested in the Northern Gateway project.
"Then along comes Dr Gillespie's suggestion for council to seek to transfer money to roads and bridges - it seems to me to be divisive."
Mr Brown said in the last five years 1300 jobs have been lost to the Manning Valley.
"The gateway project won't replace those 1300 jobs but it will go some way towards it.
"We need the gateway project. It is a direct employer of people."
Manning Valley Business Chamber president, Geoff Jackson said the gateway would provide employment for up to 550 people.
"Both projects (the gateway and the roads and bridges package) are critical - critical for different reasons. If one is lost it will be a great loss to the community."
Mr Jackson said the "unfounded and unsubstantiated" claims of corruption that Dr Gillespie claimed the questionnaire revealed was "unhelpful and seeking to divide the community."