Slow progress on repairs to a country town's pool could leave the community high and dry over the hot Christmas period, NSW Nationals leader Dugald Saunders said.
(min cost $8)
Login or signup to continue reading
Early in October, the NSW government agreed to give the Walgett Shire Council a one-off grant of $375,000 to restore access to the ageing Walgett Memorial Swimming Pool.
The cash splash followed uncertainty around the pool's future after council said costly repair bills meant the pool would have to be decommissioned. This left residents facing the prospect of hour-long bus trips to Lightning Ridge to go swimming.
Announcing the funding to save the pool, minister for western NSW Tara Moriarty said the previous government had "failed" to get the ball rolling on repairs.
"We are stepping in to ensure Walgett Pool is open this summer, after the former government failed to ensure this remediation work was undertaken earlier," she said.
"We know many community members are looking forward to diving straight back in once the works are complete, and we're pleased to make this a reality."
However, Mr Saunders - who was minister for western NSW under the coalition - said comments made by senior Department of Regional NSW staff at Budget Estimates on Wednesday, October 25, prove the issue was not on the former government's radar.
Jonathan Wheaton, acting deputy secretary at the department, told parliament he was first made aware of the issues facing Walgett's pool when it was published in the media after council's July motion to decommission the pool.
"Our team had no notice of the issue with the pool prior to the media report that indicated that the cost would be at $1.7 million, and then the decision the council office confirmed was rescinded on 23 August," he said.
In light of Mr Wheaton's statement in estimates, Mr Saunders accused Ms Moriarty of "trying to point fingers instead of getting on with the job".
"Ms Moriarty's comments are a blatant lie and it's clear the Minister would rather play politics than actually find a solution and deliver for the people of Western NSW," Mr Saunders said.
"The issue was not raised with me during my time in office and this is just Labor's way of covering up that the Minister is swimming in the slow lane when it comes to this issue."
With repairs to the pool expected to take 10 weeks to complete, shadow minister for western NSW Sarah Mitchell worried delays would leave the community without a pool until the new year.
"The fact is that the government was made aware of the issue in July, it knew how to fix it in August but didn't announce any funding until October, and work is yet to begin. It's not good enough," Mrs Mitchell said.
"When the funding was announced, Labor said it would take 10 weeks to complete the project but that would take us right into the middle of the Christmas-New Year period.
"I have no confidence the people of Walgett will have their pool during the summer school holidays, which means families won't have anywhere to go for a reprieve from the extreme heat."
Reading this on mobile web? Download our news app. It's faster, easier to read and we'll send you alerts for breaking news as it happens. Download in the Apple Store or Google Play.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.