Update, February 2024. I am now informed that the State Government has not extended the time to acquit this grant, and that the funding is now lost. This is a very disappointing outcome.
Due to inaction by Council, a $801,218 grant to build a clubhouse in Macquarie Park (on the river opposite the Terrace in Windsor) for Paddlesports and Dragon boating was hanging by a thread.
In July 2020, Robyn Preston MP announced a generous grant on behalf of the Coalition Government through the NSW Sports Council. It took years of applications made by Windsor Paddlesports Club Inc. to secure a grant for a flood-resilient building that would provide watercraft storage, change room facilities, amenities and a kitchen. The grant was made in conjunction with partner groups like the Pink Finss Charity and the Pendragons Dragon Boat Club (who need to travel to Penrith or even Lithgow to scratch their itch). Imagine how it would adorn our river to have dragon boating visible from the Terrace!
A concept drawing of the proposed Windsor Paddlesports clubhouse
A concept drawing of the proposed Windsor Paddlesports clubhouse
The DA was lodged and duly passed. Both Labor Mayor Barry Calvert and Liberal Mayor Patrick Conolly appeared for photo opportunities to extol the benefits of the new facility. Necessary steps to progress the project were to grant landowner consent (Council + Crown Lands’ responsibility) and for the works to ‘commence’ – crucial for ensuring the deadline of the DA would not lapse.
Hawkesbury Mayor Barry Calvert appears for a photo-op
Hawkesbury Labor Mayor Barry Calvert appears for a photo-op
The club held a groundbreaking ceremony in May 2022 where our State MP did not mince words, congratulating them for getting “shovels in the ground” at the “commencement of construction”. In reality, Council forbade the club from doing anything more than survey and peg out the site. They were told to wait for the ‘Plan of Management’ of the Park, which arrived in the Chamber at our August meeting.
Hawkesbury Liberal Payor Patrick Conolly appears for a photo-op
Hawkesbury Liberal Payor Patrick Conolly appears for a photo-op
Worse, it appeared Council wanted to argue about whether ‘commencement’ had truly occurred, when the DA was set to expire the day after the meeting, Wednesday 9th August. The clock has been run out. The grant is due to expire in a matter of weeks, and my fear was that the new State Labor Government are looking for excuses to squash grants issued by their predecessors.
When I raised this concern in the Chamberat the meeting, it was pleasing that no one in the chamber wanted this to fall over. Everyone saw the risks of having to lodge a brand new DA or to give the State Government any excuse to withdraw the funding. Representatives from the club told us last night that despite repeated requests and obvious urgency, ‘landowner consent’ from Crown Lands / Council has still not been given. So in this instance, Council has failed the community. Watch the video linked above and hear how disappointed the club is at their dealings with Council.
This debacle is a symptom of a wider problem we’ve seen before: Worthy community groups secure grant funding from the State or Federal government, but need to engage Council for planning permission, or landowners consent, and then Council lets them down. Just look at the mess an earlier grant for a new Hawkesbury Men’s Shed devolved into. That funding was lost.
As it stands, the project was shown to be at significant risk, and the club was being pressed to provide legal advice at their own expense to justify that commencement has indeed occurred, which was the only thing that will keep the project alive
A week later, the following advice was received by the Paddlesports club from Council:
Welcome news!
Welcome news!

I am also informed that (belatedly) the Council has confirmed the necessary “landowner consent” from Crown Lands.

The grant is not out of the woods yet, as there remains the question of whether the facility can be built within the grant monies pledged.

I will continue to advocate for a good outcome for the community.

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