YESTERDAY afternoon the Upper Hunter Shire Council issued a statement stating it would request the state government to hand over the $120,000 in grant funding they awarded the Scone Community Resource Centre (SNRC) to Council instead, to build an ability park in Scone themselves.
The statement follows a decision by Councillors at an extraordinary meeting on Thursday to withdraw $60,000 budgeted for scheduled maintenance to Amaroo Park and would instead distribute the budget across 20 parks in the Shire. (Read: Council Cut Funding For Children’s Playground.)
Steven Watson, president of the Resource Centre explained the community group was not in a position to make up the financial shortfall and said they would be forced to return the grant funding to the government. (Read: Neighbourhood Appalled At Council’s Cuts To Disability Playground.)
Cr Sue Abbott said she was surprised by Council’s announcement on Sunday evening, explaining there had been no meeting or decision by Councillors to take this approach.
“I passionately support the need for an all ability park and I think more money should be dedicated to parks across the Shire,” said Cr Abbott.
“The $60,000 was already budgeted for Amaroo, so to change that has changed what the Neighbourhood Centre can develop,” she said.
“I absolutely support more money being spent across the Shire on all parks for our community, but realistically $60,000 divided by 20 parks will have little impact on any of them,” she said.
“This is a community project and I can’t believe Council would come in and now want to take the funding from them.
“Considering the huge amounts of money, into the millions that Council has dedicated to a range of projects, spending a relatively nominal amount of money on parks across the Shire for everyone in the community to use and enjoy should be a priority, community parks should not have to compete with each other for basic facilities in all of our towns and villages.
“Certainly, the money which was dedicated to Amaroo Park I don’t feel should not have been taken away at the last minute, when a community group had spent time and effort obtaining a grant for a fabulous all ability facility,” she said.
“As a Councillor I was concerned to read the media release from Council when there had been no meeting, no motion put forward and no consultation with Councillors to decide on a new approach,” Cr Sue Abbott said.
The Council’s statement also included an endorsement from Michael Johnsen MP who said he would support Council’s request to have the funds given to the Scone Neighbourhood Resource Centre reappropriated to the Council.
The Scone Neighbourhood Resource Centre had also planned to apply for a second round of grant funding for the all ability park, developing the park in two phases; the Council release did not indicate if they would be developing the second phase.