Concern over funds for Wauchope sporting fields

The planned regional sporting fields at Wauchope.

The planned regional sporting fields at Wauchope.

There is concern that $5.5 million for the Hastings Regional Sporting Fields in Wauchope has been reallocated as the council’s contribution towards the $65 million Ocean Drive duplication in Port Macquarie.

The proposed new sporting precinct will be on the corner of Stoney Creek Road and the Oxley Highway.

The council says there will be high-end fields for outdoor sports, including cricket, touch football, football, rugby league and rugby union, plus a children’s play space, an off-leash dog exercise area and paths for cyclists and walkers.

At last month’s council meeting, Cr Mike Cusato said that if the council couldn’t move the Ocean Drive project along, they need to transfer funds back to the Wauchope sports project, and get moving on it.

Cr Lisa Intemann says she knows Wauchope people won’t be happy with this, but council had to set aside money urgently to ensure the best chance for NSW funding for Ocean Drive.

The deputy mayor said the road duplication was a NSW 2011 election commitment, when the cost was estimated at $10 million. But detailed planning with NSW has now put construction costs at around $65 million. 

“Rightly I think, council is asking NSW to substantially cover their own election promise. But council also needs to pay some of the cost, which is why the $5.5 million was identified,” said Cr Intemann.

“If NSW funding is not forthcoming, then the money goes back to the sporting fields. But if the road funding does come through, then council will need to find other ways to pay for the fields - which might involve other projects being put on hold.

“It’s a fact of life that councils in areas like ours can’t afford all the necessary infrastructure for growth, and there has to be substantial contribution from higher levels of government,” she added.

Cr Sharon Griffiths said one of the main issues is financial reserves.

“Money is set aside for specific projects.   These projects may not reach the point where the money is spent for many years.  While the funds are sitting in other accounts accumulating it leaves projects which could be completed left unfinished,” she said. 

“If a project timeline is written based on the stages of projects to be completed, then there will be a clear direction with an approximate value on when money will be required.

“If the Ocean Drive project is due to be completed and requires funds from council to see the project underway, then council should commit money to the project, not set the money aside for another future project.  This is a poor use of money. Especially when interest rates are at a low level,” added Cr Griffiths.