With Central Coast Council still footing a bill of almost $1.9M for erosion mitigation works at Wamberal and North Entrance, NSW Labor is demanding that the State Government explain why it has short-changed councils desperate to fix and improve waterways.
The party says that a $72.7M funding pool was allocated to provide grants under the Coastal and Estuary Grant Program from 2016/17 through to 2020/21, but a Freedom of Information request had revealed that just over $38M was allocated, with the funding period set to expire at the end of June 2022.
The data also revealed that almost 250 funding applications had been lodged, and a quarter of those were rejected, including applications from Central Coast Council.
Shadow Minister for Local Government, Greg Warren, said he couldn’t understand why the government had denied funding to communities that had been impacted by erosion and other serious waterway issues.
“Councils like Newcastle and Central Coast have had to beg for funding relief to assist communities that were severely affected by erosion,” he said.
“It beggars belief that funding was there to help these communities yet the government did everything it could to avoid handing over the money.
Shadow Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Kate Washington, said the state had coastlines washing away.
“We have houses hanging from cliffs, and councils desperate for more resources,” she said.
“The Government has already committed this funding.
“They’ve made the announcement, they’ve asked for the kudos, but then they refuse to spend the money.
“The problem hasn’t gone away, if anything it’s getting worse.
A Central Coast Council spokesperson confirmed Council was required to complete emergency works at Wamberal and The Entrance North beaches at a total cost of $2.9M following severe storms last July under the direction of the Local Emergency Operations Controller (LEOCON), appointed by the NSW Government.
“As per advice, Council sought reimbursement of costs through the NSW Coast and Estuary Grant program and had submitted grant applications for both Wamberal and The Entrance North seeking fifty percent reimbursement (the maximum available) in October 2020,” the spokesperson said.
“In November 2020, Council received notification that the grant application for Wamberal had been successful with up to $992,501 of funding made available, however the application for Entrance North had been unsuccessful.
“This has left $1,894,139 remaining unfunded and presently to be incurred at the cost of Council.”
“Council also received advice from Resilience NSW on December 10, 2020, that they were not aware of any other State or Commonwealth funding available under the Emergency Management Arrangements for reimbursement of the costs to implement the LEOCON’s direction.”
On February 3, 2021, then Administrator Dick Persson announced he would write to the NSW Premier and seek her assistance in obtaining more funding.
“The works undertaken by Council during this emergency was under the direction of the Local Emergency Operations Controller as appointed by the NSW Government,” Persson said at the time.
Council has, to date, not revealed a response to Persson’s letter to the Premier.