Council’s General Manager Kerry McMurray has advised councillors that, based on an analysis of the available information, he estimates the cost of the Minnamurra River Boardwalk project at $9.5 million.
This is more than double the $4.5 million allocated by the State Government in the 2017 Budget to fully fund the project.
Over $600,000 has already been spent on the design and assessment stage of the project, headed by environmental consultants, Cardno.
Councillors received news of the shock cost blow out just prior to the February Council Meeting.
The design of Stage I (at the northern end of the project) is 65 per cent complete and the design of Stage 2 is 35 per cent complete.
Despite it adding weight to a Notice of Motion by Councillor Don Watson to pause the process to consider the costs and benefits, a decision was made to continue with the project.
The decision came to a casting vote by the Acting Mayor, Councillor Andrew Sloan, who chaired the meeting.
In casting his deciding vote, Deputy Mayor Andrew Sloan said there would be other opportunities to assess whether the project should go ahead.
The $4.5 million grant was obtained on the basis of concept designs drawn up for $30,000. The project has long been a dream of the Minnamurra Progress Association and has been strongly championed by Councillor Mark Way.
However, as Cllr Watson pointed out, when the grant was awarded it had not been formally endorsed by Council and its tourism, economic, social and environmental impact had not been assessed.
He presented a petition with 2,256 signatures asking for the route of the southern end of the Boardwalk to be moved closer to the bank.
In strongly defending the Boardwalk, Cllr Way pointed to the recent IRIS Resident Satisfaction Survey that showed 70 per cent support the Boardwalk, the highest approval rating for any project.
As previously reported in The Bugle, the Friends of the Minnamurra River have strong opposition to the over water stretch of the path to the south – concerns that have been deepened with the release of the Review of Economic Factors (REF) for that section of the route.
“The overwater stretch will have up to 42 piles, driven into the river bed an average of 10 metres,” says Friends’ Chair, Will Chyra.
“This will obviously have a significant impact on the river’s ecology.
“It is very disappointing the Greens councillors voted against last night’s motion.”
The REF for Stage 2 is currently on exhibition. A community information session has be arranged, with attendees being asked to register and lodge questions.
The REFs are set to be considered for endorsement at an extraordinary Council meeting on 26 March. If they aren’t endorsed, then new rules will mean a full Environmental Impact Study will need to be done.
Mr McMurray says that the meeting will only be to consider endorsing the REFs, not give an endorsement for the project to proceed.
“The full impact on Council’s finances and other issues will have to be considered before that decision is made. This process will involve public consultation.”
Details: Stage 2 information session – Monday 4 March, Kiama Golf Club, 6pm.
Register at kiama.nsw.gov.au or on 4232 0444