Comments of the rails
The Cunningar grain loading facility upgrade is very welcome as it was badly needed but the comments attributed to Anthony McMahon, Hilltops general manager are dubious.
Whilst the project may well be running on time at the moment this is certainly not due to Hilltops Council.
As an example, the contractor made an application to council a couple of months ago requesting permission to work on Sundays, however, a month went by without council's planner, based in Harden, bothering to reply, which is disgraceful but shows the complete disregard council has for anything agriculturally based.
The same article credits Hilltops Council with a financial contribution, which is totally incorrect. In fact, it’s the opposite as the council has imposed levies on the project.
The so-called “local community funding” is entirely from grain growers who deliver to the facility.
Plan highlights farce
Last week the Hilltops Council released the 2017-18 Draft Operational Plan at meetings held in Harden, Boorowa and Young.
The plan highlights what a farce the amalgamation is.
The amalgamation was forced upon us by the state government on the back of a KPMG Report that has never been released, telling us we were not Fit for the Future due to the infrastructure backlog that was not being funded through rate collections.
Under the administration of Tuckerman and McMahon, a $5m loss is budgeted for next financial year. In the absence of ongoing state government grants, this underlying deficit will grow to around $14m, or 75 per cent of the total current rate collection by the time the government removes its rate capping in three years.
To pay for this deficit there needs to be either a substantial increase in rates or expenditure needs to be dramatically cut.
The latter is hardly an option given the infrastructure backlog which led to the amalgamation. Ratepayers can then expect substantial increases in their rates.
The Operational Plan also details the planned expenditure of the government’s $14m Amalgamation Grant on a hotchpotch collection of projects that were not able to be justified under the previous three councils.
There has been no public consultation, no strategic thinking and no attempt to help clear the infrastructure backlog.
It is a gross waste of money on projects that will have almost no long term benefit for the shire.
Members of the Harden LGA clearly have given little thought to process and showed little regard at the meeting for the wanton waste of money.
Rather than speak out and ask questions of Mr McMahon, Ms Tuckerman and our local members Pru Goward and Katrina Hodgkinson about the flawed process, Pat O’Connor, John Horton and Chris Manchester found it easier to stand up and criticise me for daring to voice my concerns.
The Operational Plan made no mention of key infrastructure items such as getting gas into Harden, the Boorowa water supply, or the Young to Demondrille rail line.
The $14m could have built any one of these projects in its entirety.
There are a host of other development projects that are sitting there going nowhere due to council mismanagement.
The amalgamation process is destroying the identities of Harden and Boorowa as administrative and works jobs are transferred to Young.
Not only are these two towns losing significant employment, but representation and decision making ability is also being lost - all for not one single long term benefit for either town.
This Operational Plan is not fit for the present let alone fit for the future.