Votes omitted

January 10, 2018

Berrigan Shire general manager Rowan Perkins.

Finley residents were not contacted to provide input into the distribution of NSW Stronger Country Communities funding for Berrigan Shire.

The oversight in the survey, conducted by the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, meant Finley residents had no official say on which of Berrigan Shire Council’s six proposed projects would receive a share of the $788,296 allocated.

Last month the NSW Government department conducted street surveys outside supermarkets in Berrigan, Tocumwal and Barooga to help determine which of the projects would be prioritised.

A technical glitch with the NSW Government system, however, meant the Barooga responses were not officially registered due to its Victorian postcode.

Berrigan Shire Council director of corporate services Matt Hansen said council had been unable to secure an answer as to why Finley was overlooked as a survey location.

The Southern Riverina News also attempted to seek answers from the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, but its response was not received before going to print yesterday.

‘‘There has been no explanation from the Department of Premier and Cabinet about why Finley wasn’t included,’’ Mr Hansen said.

‘‘We find this unfair for Finley residents, as they may now probably miss out on funding.

‘‘The department had included Barooga residents in its survey scope, but when the Barooga postcode was put in the system it was recognised as a Victorian postcode and would not register.

‘‘We wanted all residents across the shire to have an opportunity to vote on this important funding for our region, and that has not happened.’’

Berrigan Shire general manager Rowan Perkins said the original intention was to ensure there was at least one approved project for each of the shire towns.

He said with Finley residents not surveyed, this plan is in jeopardy.

Mr Perkins said he has since made it very clear to the department that he feels almost half of the community was missed in their process.

Council’s six proposed projects were determined through a series of community meetings held across the shire in August last year.

The six projects sent to the department for consideration included new developments and upgrades.

Among the list are proposed upgrades to the Finley skate park and the Finley Showgrounds kiosk and changerooms, and an extension of the Tocumwal library.

Council also proposed developing new walking paths at Tocumwal, new netball courts at Berrigan and a new playground at the Barooga foreshore.

Mr Hansen said the final decision on which projects receive funding would be made by the NSW Government.

‘‘The NSW Government has been clear in its communication that it would not take into account an equitable distribution of projects inside a council area,’’ Mr hansen said.

‘‘There is a real risk in how the department has conducted this survey, which could mean the outcome is too heavily weighted towards one or more communities.’’

Pending approvals, Mr Hansen said the aim was to have the projects started early this year.

He said the Berrigan netball courts would be the first priority if funded, to ensure they are ready for the Picola and District Netball League which starts on Friday, March 30.

A date for the funding announcement is not yet known.

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