Hornsby Shire Mayor slams “inexplicable decision” from NSW State Government, calls on Shire residents to express their disappointment

Hornsby Shire Council

Hornsby Shire Mayor the Hon Philip Ruddock AO at the site of the Westleigh Park development

At a General Meeting of Council held last night, Hornsby Shire Mayor the Hon Philip Ruddock AO slammed an “inexplicable decision” by the NSW State Government to rescind funding for the development of a much-needed recreational facility in the Shire, at Westleigh Park.

Responding to an announcement by the NSW State Government made earlier this week demanding Council repay $36m of a $40m Stronger Communities Grant, Mayor Ruddock addressed Councillors and Shire residents, encouraging the community to voice their disappointment. He urged people to remind the NSW Premier and relevant ministers of the many local teams, athletes, clubs and generations of weekend sports players who will see their community and aspirations suffer a loss as a result of the broken promise.

In a media release, Minister for Local Government Ron Hoenig referred to Hornsby Shire as “not being one of the amalgamated Councils” as part of the NSW Government’s reasoning for rescinding the funding, while not acknowledging the annexation of a portion of Hornsby Shire’s southern territory to the City of Parramatta LGA in 2016 — a move by the then NSW Government that impacted its budget to the tune of $10m (net) annually in ratepayer revenue for Hornsby Shire and was the catalyst for the Westleigh Park development’s grant funding as compensation.

He also cited limited progress on the project. Council has always maintained the original timeline was arbitrary and unrealistic for a project of such large scale and complexity as communicated to the NSW Government from the outset. The project has made substantial progress, with a masterplan and plan of management adopted, detailed plans prepared, and construction due to commence later this year (subject to DA approval).

“I will not apologise that we have worked tirelessly on a sensitive and important site to get the balance right for our community,” said Mayor Ruddock, adding that Council has been regularly informing the state government of its progress on the project.

“Work has been underway on Westleigh Park for over five years, with millions of dollars already outlaid, contracts signed, and thousands of hours devoted to providing our residents with these vital facilities”.

The announcement from the State Government also comes less than six months after the publication of a report by the Northern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (NSROC) that found an alarming shortfall in the supply of sporting facilities in not only the Hornsby Shire LGA but the entire NSROC area—an issue that Mayor Ruddock says has only been exacerbated by recently inflated housing targets for Local Councils.

“We have cooperated with the NSW Government on their recently announced housing targets, agreeing to deliver additional housing above the 4,900 already planned for in our Hornsby Town Centre Masterplan. To learn that these new residents will no longer have access to the infrastructure they were promised is incredibly disappointing.

At the meeting, Council heard from speakers representing an array of local stakeholders groups, who relayed the community’s anger and disappointment at the NSW Government’s disregard for the hopes and dreams of aspiring young players including many girls and women who are attempting to make strides in typically male-dominated sports but lack access to adequate facilities.

Also at last night’s meeting, Council:

  • Adopted Council’s 2024-2027 Delivery Program and 2024/25 Operational Plan
  • Adopted the Terms of Reference and Internal Audit Charter for the Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee
  • Progressed implementation of the Hornsby Town Centre Masterplan
  • Adopted for public exhibition the Draft Long Term Financial Plan 2024/25 to 2033/34
  • Endorsed the Aboriginal Heritage Study and Implementation Action Plan
  • Adopted the Planning Agreements Policy 2024 and supporting documents
  • Resolved to supply and install 12 keyless lockers at Galston Aquatic and Leisure Centre

The full agenda of the meeting, along with details of each item discussed, can be found at hornsby.nsw.gov.au. The video recording of the meeting will be available from Friday afternoon.

/Public Release. View in full here.