• Tony Bosworth

Mayor Conolly hits out at MP Templeman for ‘blame game’ – while she finds his “attack puzzling”

Updated: Mar 21

Tensions are not surprisingly running high across the Hawkesbury as flood-traumatised residents struggle to rebuild their lives after three floods over three consecutive years, and this afternoon some of that boiled over into the political arena too, with Hawkesbury Liberal Mayor Patrick Conolly lashing out at Labor Federal MP Susan Templeman.

The attack centres around comments Mayor Conolly said were, “criticism from Federal Member for Macquarie, Susan Templeman, that Council staff didn’t complete the recovery fast enough following last year’s flood”.

Repairs to Greens Rd, Upper Colo Bridge and Cornwallis Lane’s drainage and damaged road are just 3 of the repair projects Hawkesbury Council – led by Cllr Conolly, lauded as ‘The Leader’ by his political colleagues - has been responsible for and yet have not been completed, almost a year after the 2021 floods.

This year’s flood caused even more damage to those unfinished repairs.

There are calls from Greens Road residents for Council to get out of the way and let the State carry out repairs in an effort to get their road repaired, such has been their frustration with slow Council-led repairs.

Clearly Hawkesbury Council needs help but it’s worth pointing out – to be factual and clear - both State and Federal governments are Liberal or Coalition controlled, the same party Cllr Conolly belongs to.

“We need help from our Federal and NSW governments, not a pile on,” says the Mayor.

“Council was left to deal with an extremely complicated and extensive recovery following the March 2021 flood, which involved local roads, bridges, parks, flood mitigation infrastructure and community buildings. Our staff have been working so hard over the past 12 months, it is greatly disappointing to see the blame game started by Susan,“ Mayor Conolly said.

Major flood damage at Cornwallis...

“I explained to Susan in April 2021 that we needed more support with project management, given the scale of the disaster we had been left to manage.

“Since then I haven’t had an email, a phone call, a letter or any other contact from Susan about the drainage issue at Cornwallis, or heard any advocacy from Susan for Council to be helped with the recovery.

“So to hear now that this will become a political point-scoring exercise is very disappointing. Our community deserves better.

"Most of our staff live here in the Hawkesbury and they come to work wanting to help every day."

“It is obvious to me that they care deeply about our community which is their community – they don’t want to be attacked by their local MP just because there is a federal election coming up,” Mayor Conolly said.

“Some of the most challenging infrastructure to rebuild have [sic] been the Upper Colo Bridge, Greens Road and the Cornwallis drainage assets,” says Cllr Conolly.

“Following the flood [last year in March 2021], Council completed damage assessments and a scope and timeline for the work, which was communicated to the community.

“We have held a number of community meetings with each of the effected areas, and provided weekly email updates to keep the community informed of our progress,” he said.

So far no work has begun by Council on permanent repairs to Greens Rd, Upper Colo Bridge, or Cornwallis.

“I want to work together with all levels of government on the recovery. I reached out to Susan Templeman and our NSW State Member for Hawkesbury, Robyn Preston earlier this week to organise a recurring regular forum for the three of us to work through the challenges of the flood recovery,” the Mayor said.

MP Preston - a political ally of the Mayor, said yesterday, "you know I have been advocating to Premier Perrottet and NSW Ministers for the NSW Government to oversee Hawkesbury Council’s larger infrastructure flood repair projects.

"Council has still not completed major works from the previous floods in 2021. This lack of delivery cannot continue," said Liberal MP Preston.

"Let’s work together to expedite these jobs. Hawkesbury folk deserve that, after everything they have endured."

“Now is not the time to fracture and fall back into old political divides," says the Mayor.

"The community expects true leadership from its elected officials, and that means working together, so I hope this can be our way forward.”

Having said that, it seems the Mayor is not going to attend a meeting he has been invited to by Ms Templeman with the Shadow Minister for Local Government, Jason Clare, tomorrow – Friday – when they will be visiting Cornwallis.

“I do find the Mayor’s attack in a press release puzzling given I personally invited him to brief the Shadow Minister for Local Government tomorrow morning,” Ms Templeman said this afternoon.

“I’m disappointed neither he nor the [Council’s] General Manager are able to attend, but the invitation remains open should his availability change.

“I understand the Council is under enormous pressure to project manage these big jobs. I watched the Mayor concede that very point in multiple television interviews during the floods.

“I will continue to advocate for whatever is required to ensure the community has its assets restored,” she said.

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