The NSW Government used the escalated cost of the Woy Woy railway underpass, from $52 million to $112 million, as an excuse to scrap the project, according to candidate for the Gosford by-election Ms Liesl Tesch.
However, the Liberal party candidate, Ms Jilly Pilon has said funds left over from the $52 million promised by the NSW Government were still available, if the Council could find the remainder of the money to complete the project.
The Labor Party obtained hundreds of pages of documents, emails, minutes of meetings and payment claims under Freedom of Information legislation.
According to the documents, the State Government was made aware of the increased costs associated with the project on multiple occasions prior to the 2015 State Election but did not back away from its promise to deliver the level crossing replacement until well after being re-elected.
In October 2016, the former Minister for Roads, Mr Duncan Gay, finally said the State would not provide more funds and claimed it was the former Gosford Council that had not adequately costed the project or informed the Government of the cost blowouts, despite numerous emails and documents suggesting otherwise.
The documents revealed that Central Coast Council had continued to receive funding for ongoing work on the project and that there had been agreement between the NSW Government and the Council about the ongoing availability of funds.
By October 2016, the expenditure breakdown was roughly $4.1 million for project management and consultancy fees; $5.8 million on the pedestrian underpass and adjacent road and footpath work and $5.3 million on preparatory works for the rail underpass and road construction at the base of Bulls Hill, according to the email trail.
“Total expenditure to date in the vicinity of $15.2 million,” the documents revealed.
If Ms Pilon’s assertion that the original $52 million pledged by the NSW Government was still on the table, the remaining $36.8 million is still available.
According to Ms Tesch, it was current NSW Premier, Ms Gladys Berejiklian, who botched the project when she was Transport Minister, by adopting a “head-in-the-sand” approach to its true cost.
“This reveals a scandal,” Ms Tesch said.
“And the question is simple.
“What does Ms Berejiklian and her Coalition Government have against the people of the Central Coast?
“This project was set to fail from the start.
“These documents reveal a State Liberal Government that have shown complete disregard for the Central Coast.
“It hasn’t shown or applied the slightest bit of care or attention for the Central Coast.
“Premier Berejiklian has overseen massive spending on Sydney-centric projects and is happy to bury her head in the sand when it comes funding our local infrastructure.
“The Liberal candidate for Gosford needs to make a commitment to cleaning up the mess left behind by the Premier,” she said.
In an interview with NSW Liberal Candidate for the Gosford by-election, Ms Jilly Pilon, she said the $52 million commitment from the NSW Government was still on the table.
“Any additional funding would have to come from the Central Coast Council,” Ms Pilon said.
Media release, 14 Mar 2017
Liesl Tesch, Labor Candidate for Gosford by-election
Interview, 16 Mar 2017
Jilly Pilon, Liberal Candidate for Gosford by-election
Reporter: Jackie Pearson