FURIOUS Labor politicians say have beenlocked out of future discussions on the Williamtown contamination crisis, followingan announcement that aconsultative group for MPswill bedisbanded by the state government.
The future of the separate Williamtown Community Reference Group (CRG) –the main vehicle for talksbetween residents of the red zone, Defence, the NSW Environment Protection Authority, council and government agencies –is also under a cloud.
Member for Paterson Meryl Swanson, Port Stephens MP Kate Washington and Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp attended an elected representatives’ meeting at state parliament on Wednesday morning, and were told at its conclusion that the forum was being wound up.
They were also informed thatthe CRGwouldbe dissolvedand the EPA wouldcall for tenders for a private consultant to run a new “consultative committee” to replace it.MPs would not be eligible to sit on the new committee.
Ms Swanson slammed the state government’s actions.
“It’s unconscionable to think the EPA is now outsourcing its responsibilities to a private consultant, and then excluding local elected representatives from being part of that process,” shesaid.
“Without elected representatives in their corner, our constituents will have no clout in their plight to hold government agencies to account.”
Both the elected representatives group and the CRG were established in 2015 to keep channels of communication open between parties involved in addressing the firefighting contamination crisis.
It is unclear what the makeup of the new consultative committee will be, how its members will be chosen or by whom.
Ms Washington said that from the beginning, Labor MPs were unhappy at being excluded from CRG meetings, and they were dumbfounded they were now being blocked from discussions entirely.
“As local MPs, we’ve been sidelined from the consultation process from the very beginning,” she said.
“Two years on and the NSW Government continues to prioritise politics over the community by excluding us from this process.”
Comment was being sought from the state government on Wednesday night.