Council concerned over misleading comments

Published: 11 Aug 2020 4:48pm

Wagga Wagga City Council is gravely concerned about a flyer circulating in Wagga which is completely false in the way it describes the outcome of a meeting on 5 August this year.

The meeting was arranged by Council to provide information about the way the Council is approaching the Active Travel Plan cycleway project and the North Wagga levee.

The meeting was attended by Fiona Ziff, Sam McGuiness and Peter Morris on behalf of the North Wagga Wagga Residents’ Association.  General Manager Peter Thompson and Peter Ross attended on behalf of Council.

At the meeting, the representatives of the North Wagga Residents’ Association stated that they were going to pursue the construction of the 1 in 100 year levee themselves and not involve Council.  The Association stated that it would pursue the project as a State Significant Development.

Mr Thompson indicated to the representatives that he wasn’t aware of any process which would enable the levee to be approved in the manner which the Association was proposing.

“I indicated to Sam that I admired his ‘ticker’ in taking  on the task but I really  didn’t know how it could be successful outside the process that Council is currently following,” Mr Thompson said.

“I said ‘your proposal and the Council process currently being followed by Council in accordance with the NSW Government Floodplain Planning Manual can happen at the same time.  This is the best approach because I don’t know how you can get the consent and outcome you are after whereas the Council approach will produce a result eventually’.”

Mr Thompson said he offered the support of Council to the Association in relation to providing information which Council holds, such as geotechnical reports and levee designs.

He said the Association indicated it would be seeking Commonwealth and State Government funding to build the levee.

“Sam McGuiness indicated that he was aware that such funding would only be provided if there were strict fiscal controls systems in place to oversee the grants and suggested they would form an independent committee to oversee this aspect.  Mr McGuiness suggested former NSW Premier Mike Baird as the type of person who he would see holding this oversight role,” Mr Thompson said.

Mr Thompson indicated that in the event the Association was successful in gaining the approval to construct the levee, he felt that the money currently being collected by Council for flood mitigation in North Wagga would be available for the project.  This would be subject to probity and governance controls in relation to the application of the funds to the project.

“This meeting is completely misrepresented in the flyer which is being circulated asking for monetary contributions,” Mr Thompson said.

“In the flyer it suggests I provided consent for the group to take over the construction of the levee.  This is completely false.

“The proposal of the Association to pursue an approval for the levee as a State Significant Development is a decision solely of the Association.

“Similarly, the flyer claims that once the Association obtains approval for the levee the Council will ‘hand over’ the money it is collecting.  While it is most likely that this money would be available to the project it would be subject to a rigorous governance and probity regime in the same manner as any Commonwealth and State Government funding towards the project.”

The flyer suggests that the 1 in 100 year levee has almost been secured. Mr Thompson said there is no factual evidence which the Council is aware of that suggests this is true in any way.

“Council will provide information to assist the Association in their application to build a 1 in 100 year levee themselves,” Mr Thompson said.

“The Council does not, however, believe that this application will be successful and is continuing with the process the Council has been following to secure flood mitigation for North Wagga.”