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Friday, 25th October, 2013

By By Erica Visser

Doubt surrounds plan to divert cash elsewhere

City Council is expected to ditch its $8 million heavy vehicle bypass project after years of planning and a $150,000 consultancy fee.

Council had spent the past four years securing funding for the public road to  link the Barrier and Silver City highways.

It had planned to put $1 million towards the project, plus an extra $500,000 for land acquisition which it has borrowed from a bank.

The Labor Federal Government pledged $3 million, NSW Government $1 million and Perilya was to fund the last $2 million as its Potosi trucks would be the primary users of the road.

Council said it was “thrilled” after securing the hefty sum from each party, but did not sign the contract in January and instead deferred it.

Council had included $1.5 million in its 2013/2014 project budget but now management is proposing to pull it, after it identified a “funding gap” of $4 million.

“As there is little prospect of sourcing the required additional funds to construct the road, it is recommended that Council not proceed with the construction of the bypass road,” a report from management read.

It said the Federal Government funding has been in limbo due to cuts by the newly-elected Abbott Government.

Perilya has previously said it will build its own private road if the bypass plans were abandoned.

Meanwhile, Council is likely to lobby the State Government to transfer its $1 million commitment to another local project.

Councillors will vote to authorise General Manager Therese Manns to negotiate the deal with NSW Trade and Investment.

Council management wants the funds to go towards repairing the dangerous and unkempt road to the top of the Line of Lode, named Federation Way.

A second suggestion is to use the $1 million to increase power supply to the Eyre Street film studios.

According to Council, the NSW Government has said it would consider diverting the $1 million to another worthy local project.

But local State MP John Williams wasn’t so sure.

“The offer from the State Government to match Council’s contribution for the road was fairly specific. I could talk to the Deputy Premier (Andrew Stoner) but I can’t make any promises,” Mr Williams said yesterday.

“It took a lot of work to get that funding up, it wasn’t easy for me to do, but these things happen and with Council’s financial position it was always going to be a bit restrictive.”

Mr Williams said that he had found Council funding for Federation Way a year ago but it had knocked it back.

“I’ve been to the Minister for Roads and had a verbal indication that the government would put forward $150,000 and then a similar amount has been offered separately by the Department of Lands. This has been all verbal.

“The answer was that (Council) doubts that $300,000 would be enough... I don’t know much about roads but I would have thought that $1 million would be far in excess for Federation Way.”

However, Mr Williams said that funding for the road should be the priority due to high traffic and safety concerns.

The Nationals MP also said that Mr Stoner had told Council that the Film Studios were too risky to support.

“Andrew Stoner actually said very early in the piece that he wasn’t prepared to support the next stage of the film studios until Council could show that it was providing jobs and an income.

“You’ve got to understand from a government point of view, putting that size investment up and not creating what’s promised is asking for trouble.

“It allows the Opposition to attack you for wasting money.”

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