The state government has finally given $90million to Hornsby Shire Council so it can carry on with its plans to develop its two signature blockbuster public projects – the Westleigh and Hornsby Quarry sites.
But Hornsby is still left wondering when it will get funds to plug its $9million annual shortfall in its bank balance – with the Treasury saying Hornsby is asking for too much money.
It’s this shortfall which funds essential services like libraries, roads and footpaths, waste collection and parks maintenance.
In an exclusive interview with the Monthly Chronicle, Hornsby Shire Council Mayor Philip Ruddock said that “$40million will go towards Westleigh and $50million for the Quarry,” he said. “This Government assistance is most welcome. Obviously, this payment is not enough to fully compensate the people of Hornsby Shire but it is a very good start.”
A major issue facing Westleigh is its remediation. It has most recently been used as an RFS training ground where the fire retardant chemical perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) used in the foam used for fire training left a toxic residue. But back in the 1940s to 1960s it was also a deposit site for human waste.
Once cleaned up, Hornsby Council intends to create five ovals as well as walking and cycling trails.
“We’re at the stage with both projects now where we’re looking at the planning of each and how remediation of Westleigh could be best done.”
As for the annual $9million HSC faces after the loss of the suburbs of Epping and Carlingford and their ratepayer and Section 94 contributions to Parramatta, Ruddock added that “we are still in discussions with the Premier and the Treasury.
“The government always said that Hornsby would not be worse off after the amalgamation so we are working to secure funds that ensure that outcome. At the moment there are issues over how you calculate the rates paid to Parramatta and Section 94 contributions and the Treasury is suggesting our figures are higher than they need to be.
“We still expect more funds in the shortterm future (from the government). They need to meet our ongoing costs.”
Hornsby is also working behind the scenes to avoid expensive litigation with Parramatta Council over just how much it still owes Parramatta Council in rates and Section 94 monies paid by developers to council coffers.
Referring to the famous upmarket heritage hotel in the Blue Mountains, the Mayor added that he wants to see “a Lilianfels of the north” linked to both Hornsby Quarry and Lisgar Gardens to create a unique tourist destination for the Shire, as well as creating more jobs for locals.