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Councillor proposal to rescue community clubs grants

Aug 16, 2023

Years of inaction by the Hawkesbury City Council might result in the loss of a significant new riverside sports facility. The Windsor Paddlesports Club’s three-year-old State government grant worth $801,208 is currently “hanging by a thread”.

Under pressure from the council, the club is now compelled to expend substantial sums on legal expenses to obtain a legal expert’s assessment that the construction activities have indeed “commenced.” This step is crucial to safeguard the grant, which is set to expire in  upcoming weeks. 

The legal fees will need to be covered using funds from club donations and member fees. The reasoning behind the council’s  requirement for legal advice remains puzzling. Despite the Hawkesbury Post’s inquiries, the council has declined to address any queries regarding this situation, which originates from events as far back as 2020.

The ongoing saga is the most recent proof that the mechanisms for ensuring the proper allocation of NSW government grants to sports clubs and other community organisations by Hawkesbury City Council can be ineffective.

The clock has run out. The grant is due to expire in a matter of weeks, and my fear is that the new State Labor Government is looking for excuses to squash grants issued by their predecessors, this is hanging by a thread,” Councillor Nathan Zamprogno told the Hawkesbury Post.

Cr. Barry Calvert at the club with members.

Doubt over the Paddlesports Club’s grant follows the loss of a $81,000 state government grant in 2019 to the Wilberforce Men’s Shed. The new shed was to be hosted on the grounds of the Australiana Pioneer Village at Wilberforce where the land is Council owned.

The approval of the Development Application (DA) faced delays, prompting a Change.org petition to urge the council to expedite the process to avoid the grant from expiring. Following a substantial waiting period, the council concluded that the land was susceptible to flooding and not suitable, leading to the eventual expiration of the grant. Despite efforts, an alternate location could not be secured within the required timeframe.

The Paddlesports’ club now finds itself in a similar situation. The grant’s history stretches back to 2016 when the club first began formulating its grant application. In July 2020 State Member for the Hawkesbury Robyn Preston announced it had succeeded in winning a grant for the construction of a clubhouse in Macquarie Park in Windsor. The grant was successful because multiple groups came together to justify the utility this facility would grant to the community. They include cancer therapy group Pink Finnss and local Dragon boat enthusiasts. However the money won’t be released until a range of criteria, largely dependent on council, has been met. 

The club held a ground-breaking ceremony in May 2022 where Preston did not mince words, congratulating the club for getting “shovels in the ground” at the “commencement of construction”. In reality, council stopped the club from doing anything more than surveying and pegging out the site. 

An artists impression of the new club.

There have been a  number of lengthy delays including advice 18 months ago, that the club would have to wait for the Plan of Management for Macquarie Park (“The Plan”). The new club would sit inside the Park. The Plan was finally passed by council unanimously on August 8, only one day before the DA lapsed. Yet that alone, has not been enough to save the grant as it must now get legal opinion.

A spokesman for the Paddlesports Club said that he believed the Club had the support of all councillors to make sure the grant did not lapse and did not want to comment until the process had been resolved.

Cr. Zamprogno said the council “needed to learn from its mistakes” and revealed that he was working on a plan that could see HCC provide short term loans to community groups. This assistance aims to alleviate the financial burden of costly construction and other approval processes, thereby facilitating the fulfilment of the council’s frequently demanding administrative prerequisites.

​”Community groups are not developers; they are not planning experts. My view is that Council has an obligation to assist community groups in any way they can to ensure the goals of a grant can be delivered. Council should be able to stand in the gap. The community won’t tolerate great facilities like this slipping through our fingers because of our inaction or buck-passing.”

 

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