Geoff Helisma |
A $2.7million Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund is “probably” pork barrelling, Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) general manager Ashley Lindsay has said.
When the Independent asked if it could see a copy of CVC’s application, Mr Linsday said, “There wasn’t one.”
“We were asked to provide shovel-ready projects [that] we already had; I guess our application would have been the application we made for the funding for the three roundabouts [in Yamba] on Yamba Rd,” he said.
The funding will fill a void left by CVC’s miscalculation regarding a $4,427,516 Grow Local Economies Fund grant, which was awarded to CVC in February 2019, to construct three roundabouts on Yamba Road and a fourth at Palmers Island.
However, in February this year it was revealed that constructing the four roundabouts would cost an estimated $12,232,713, much more than the $5,727,705 CVC had allocated towards the project.
Mr Lindsay said, when the government asked CVC to nominate a project, “we didn’t know what it was for”.
“We were asked by the state government, do you have any shovel-ready projects that can help with stimulus of the local economy, [and] that was the one that we put forward,” he said.
The revelation that CVC did not make a formal application to the fund comes just weeks after various media outlets reported that Premier Gladys Berejiklian had conceded that grants from the $252m Stronger Communities Fund, which overwhelmingly went to council’s in Coalition-held seats, were pork barrelling.
“It’s not something the community likes … but it’s an accusation I will wear,” she said.
“It’s not unique to our government.
“It’s not an illegal practice; unfortunately it does happen from time to time by every government.”
According to the government’s Bushfire Local Economy Economic Recovery Fund website, the funding is available to councils upon application, and must meet five criteria:
- Alignment with regional objectives;
- Local support and participation (Applications must provide evidence the community supports the project);
- Evidence base (Applications must demonstrate the community has a need for the proposed project and its outcomes);
- Feasibility (Applications must provide evidence the project has been adequately planned, costed and appropriate mitigation strategies are in place for identified risks); and,
- Enduring benefit (Applications must demonstrate the project output will deliver an ongoing, sustainable benefit for the community).