Councillors 'held to ransom'

BILL Ludwig was accused by the mayor and other councillors of attempting to blackmail them during a bitter debate on which projects to put forward for federal funding.

In the end there was unanimous support for an application for $5 million to further develop Rockhampton’s southside pool, but not before Cr Ludwig was attacked for attempting to “weaken” the chances of success by insisting on a second bid for the Barmaryee sports complex in Yeppoon.

Councillors were asked by officers to nominate a project or projects for the first round of the Regional Development Australia Fund and had lengthy behind-closed-doors discussion before further debate and a vote in an open session.

They had been told by staff that their nomination would stand a better chance of success in Canberra if it had been unanimously approved as a top priority by all councillors.

In the private session they agreed to base their bid around the Southside Pool Project, which has already received $5 million from the State Government.

But when it came to the open session Cr Ludwig threatened to withdraw his support unless Barmaryee was added to the bid as a second priority – a move which drew the accusation of blackmail from Cr Greg Belz. When Cr Ludwig asked Mayor Brad Carter to rule on a point of order over the use of inappropriate and offensive language aimed against him, Cr Carter said he too believed Cr Ludwig was blackmailing his colleagues. Earlier Cr Tony Williams had accused Cr Ludwig of holding the table to ransom.

An unrepentant Cr Ludwig eventually fell into line, but not before claiming there was no reason why the two projects could not be presented to the government for consideration.

Outside the council meeting he said he was increasingly frustrated that the Capricorn Coast was being sidelined by a council dominated by representatives from Rockhampton.

“When the whole of region priority plan was published last year, Barmaryee was top of the priority list base on perceived need and public benefit.

“It is a project that is desperately needed but there has been a series of delays. It was supposed to have been up and running in 2009, then 2010 and now we are told it will open at the end of 2011, but how can we have any confidence? The council has shown extremely bad faith and has stuffed up three funding rounds in a row.

“Meanwhile 2000 sports players at the coast are waiting and they are as cheesed off as I am.”

Cr Carter countered Cr Ludwig’s claims and said the council had prioritised the Yeppoon Town Hall redevelopment and all-abilities playground at the expense of some Rockhampton projects.

“The southside pool will be of benefit to the whole of the region and will eventually be a $15 million centre,” he said.

Work on phase one of its redevelopment is due to start later this month with the digging of a new Olympic-standard heated pool, the only one of its type in regional Queensland.

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