Kiama Local Government Roundtable considers Restart NSW priorities

Kiama Mayor Brian Petschler and Kiama MP Gareth Ward at the roundtable.
Kiama Mayor Brian Petschler and Kiama MP Gareth Ward at the roundtable.

NEXT week Kiama councillors will discuss their role in helping fight for a series of big ticket items considered to be of benefit to the entire region, which could potentially be funded by the long-term partial lease of the state’s poles and wires. 

On Thursday,  Member for Kiama Gareth Ward hosted a local government roundtable at Kiama Council chambers to discuss priorities for the region in relation to the proposed $20 billion Restart NSW fund from the long-term partial lease of poles and wires. 

The government announced earlier this year that, if re-elected, it would privatise 49 per cent of the state’s electricity poles and wires through a 99-year lease in an effort to raise $20 billion for infrastructure expenditure. 

Of that, $6 billion would be spent in regional NSW.

The roundtable was attended by Kiama, Shellharbour, Wollongong and Shoalhaven City councils. 

During the roundtable discussion, the Albion Park Rail bypass, the F6, upgrade of the Princes Highway between Berry and Bomaderry/new Shoalhaven River bridge and the Mainline Acceleration Program were identified as the big ticket items within the region. 

Kiama Mayor Brian Petschler said roundtable members were looking from a regional perspective at projects that should be unanimously supported. 

He said although they decided to take back to respective councils those projects of regional importance, this would not stop councils making their own smaller submissions.  

Cr Petschler said the matter would be discussed at council’s next meeting on September 16 to gauge support. 

‘‘In addition to that, in the longer term we’ll be considering some more local issues of regional importance.’’

He said potential items included the Kiama Harbour upgrade, Gerringong Museum, the cultural centre in Kiama and expansion of the Leisure Centre. 

‘‘These are all issues that have come forward in the past that we won’t have funds for in the short-term.”

Mr Ward said too often the Illawarra had been a ‘‘loose confederation of warring tribes’’. 

‘‘We’ve had people progressing projects in their own backyard without actually thinking about the big picture. 

‘‘And that’s allowed governments of both persuasions over many years to pit and pick off elements of this region.’’

Mr Ward appealed for public support for the poles and wires proposal. 

‘‘Unless people vote for the 49 per cent lease of poles and wires at the next election, there won’t be a $20 billion benefit. ‘‘And there also won’t be power price increases of 1 per cent  less than inflation, which is what we are promising under the plan. 

‘‘We need the support, but I don’t want the region to be left behind because we hadn’t prepared for the possibility of this once-in-a-generation opportunity.” 

Labor candidate for Kiama Glenn Kolomeitz recently said the Liberals’ plan would only mean an increase in electricity bills.

Mr Ward refuted this.

“In the last five years of the last Labor government, power prices rose by 60 per cent. Compare that with the increase we saw this financial year of 1.7 per cent. 

‘‘It’s not Labor that’s guaranteeing that price increases will be capped at one per cent less than inflation. We’re doing that.”

Member for Shellharbour Anna Watson slammed the roundtable as a ‘‘con job’’. 

“Mr Ward is trying desperately to salvage what little credibility he can after Labor revealed last week that the entire Wollongong local government area would be excluded from the state government’s proposed NSW Restart Regional Investment Fund,’’ she said. 

“These proposed funds by the NSW Liberals are an attempt to soften up the business community and other interest groups so they agree to sell-off power in NSW.’’ 

A discussion paper has been released as part of the Rebuilding NSW plan consultation process. 

Interested parties can make a submission by September 19.