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Hawkesbury Mayor makes Comm Games bid

Jul 20, 2023

Michael Sainsbury

Hawkesbury Mayor Sarah McMahon has unilaterally backed an unusual bid to host the Commonwealth Games in Western Sydney, despite lacking any support from the council or the NSW state government. The haphazard announcement, made alongside Liverpool Mayor Ned Mannoun, raises serious concerns about financial irresponsibility and questionable motives.

The announcement, boldly shared on the Hawkesbury City Council’s official mayor’s Facebook site, occurred without any democratic vote or agreement from the council. Mayor McMahon’s blatant disregard for due process has left ratepayers stunned. 

“If Dan Andrews can’t do it – then Western Sydney surely can! And to start making the case, today Ned Mannoun – Mayor of Liverpool and I joined forces to say that the 2026 Commonwealth Games belong in our backyard,” Cr Mahon wrote, encouraging readers to tune onto commercial television nightly news last night, to see her in action.

“With the new Western Sydney International Airport on the way, billions of dollars in roads and rail rolling out and with a very capable Sydney Olympic Park in Homebush, CommBank Stadium in Parramatta and Penrith Regatta Centre already built for example, we have the necessities to make it happen!”

“If Dan Andrews can’t do it – then Western Sydney surely can,” Hawkesbury Mayor, Sarah McMahon.

Yet despite a so-called balanced budget recently, the HCC is in a difficult financial position.

Council is grappling with a $35 million loan request to fix a poorly managed sewerage repair project, long overdue promises of infrastructure, and a looming $40 million funding gap for the ongoing Cornwallis river bank disaster. Additionally, concerning reports have emerged about toxic PFAS chemicals compromising local water supplies from the Richmond RAAF bases, leaving residents worried and abandoned.

The mayor’s Quixotic title, also comes at a time where growing numbers of people into the Hawkesbury are experiencing economic hardship in the wake of high inflation and a string of mortgage rate rises.

“Money is better spent on hospital and schools,” said NSW Premier Chris Minns.

Councillor Mary Lyon-Buckett, a former mayor and HCC representative, urges caution in pursuing an event that another state has declined to host, and which lacks clear details and a proper time frame. 

Speaking as an individual as the matter has not been considered by Council, she emphasizes the need for local discussions and financial transparency before committing ratepayer money. Council’s primary role, she asserts, is to support state government initiatives once they have secured events successfully.

“…there has been no local discussions about it. There is no detail about the costs involved nor the benefits for our ratepayers and residents, “ Cl Lyons-Buckett said.

“Currently we see people suffering cost of living pressures and personally, I have had representations from people concerned about their annual Council rate increase which have just been rolled out this week. I would not like to see our ratepayers burdened any further, especially when Council already voted (I didn’t support it) to put $4M of ratepayer money towards the upgrade of Turnbull Oval. The priorities of our community are to continue to build on strengthening our area after the cumulative impacts suffered through fire, flood and covid,” she said.

Hawksbury residents are still waiting for long promised repairs to critical infrastructure following the floods.

The bid may also put her at odds with her deputy Barry Calvert, an ALP councillor who is the chairman of Western Sydney regional organisation of Councils.. NSW Premier Chris Minns has categorically ruled out the state backing any bid for the Games. Cr Calvert was contacted for comment.

Cr McMahon’s announcement has been criticised by some as grandstanding and has been made ahead of the expected opening of nominations by the Liberal Party for the Federal seat of Macquarie. McMahon, a Liberal who also serves on that party’s state executive, has twice failed to win the seat from incumbent ALP MP Susan Templeman who dramatically increased her majority in the 2022 election.

Should Cr McMahon seek a third nomination, her path may prove more difficult. The Guardian reported that moves are afoot in the NSW Liberal party to kick out one of her main backers, Morison government era powerbroker Alex Hawke, Federal Member for the adjoining seat of Mitchell, whose star is certainly on the wane. Hawke is known to have wielded influence in the Liberal Party well beyond his one seat across Western and Northern Sydney.

Council elections are due in September 2024.

McMahon has refused to answer questions from the Hawkesbury Post.

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