What haul road?
Wednesday, 21st September, 2011
By John Casey
BH Mayor Wincen Cuy has called for urgent talks with NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner after an embarrassing gaffe from Minister for Western NSW Kevin Humphries yesterday.
Already reeling after recently being ignored at both a federal and state level for funding of local projects, BH powerbrokers were dismayed by comments from Mr Humphries claiming he had “seen nothing in writing” regarding the proposed haulage road around the city.
City Council has spent considerable time and resources submitting a detailed plan for the multi-million dollar haulage road which is central to Perilya’s plans at its Potosi mine site.
Mayor Cuy and BH City Council General Manager Frank Zaknich expressed their concerns about Mr Humphries’ comments at a hastily convened impromptu meeting with the Minister yesterday.
Mr Humphries, who was in the city to open the new Child and Family Unit at Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation, emerged from a 20-minute discussion with the Mayor and General Manager defending his position.
“I didn’t see anything in writing before the (NSW) budget,” Mr Humphries said.
“The difficulty we’ve got at the minute is we don’t actually have a plan for the haulage road and we don’t have any request at this stage,” Mr Humphries said on ABC local radio earlier in the day.
“The local community that is putting that project together with the mining company (Perilya) have got to come up with a funding formula, so at this stage we have an in principle agreement to support it - we just haven’t got the request in detail.”
Those statements would have shocked Mayor Cuy and Mr Zaknich, although both were careful not to criticise Minister Humphries.
“I’m not overly concerned that he (Mr Humphries) didn’t know, but I have already sent correspondence to (Deputy Premier) Mr Stoner and expect to discuss the matter in the next few days,” Cr Cuy said.
“There was a submission lodged with the previous government and we touched base with the new government following the election and I understand the proposal is still being assessed,” he added.
Member for Murray-Darling and fellow National Party MP John Williams did his best to defend Mr Humphries, saying the Minister was aware of the haulage road proposal.
However, this was in conflict with Mr Humphries’ version of events and the Minister said the haulage road proposal would have to be re-submitted before any funds were committed.
Council’s plans for the haulage road are advanced to the stage that a meeting of the Technical Services Committee tonight will discuss expressions of interest from six companies interested in construction of the road.
The tender process for design plans and specifications of the project is also on the agenda.
The tender process closed seven weeks ago and Council’s Group Manager Infrastructure, Paul DeLisio, has recommended the tender not be awarded given the federal government’s decision not to financially support it.
MP John Williams said NSW National Party leader and Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner had indicated a “priority to fund the haulage road”.
“I believe it will happen, but we need to find the money,” Mr Williams said.
“I will follow it up with Mr Stoner but he gave the impression that he didn’t see it as a major impost when he visited the city (in June).”
A team of 18 NSW National Party MPs spent two days in BH at the start of June, but no major policy or funding decisions have resulted.