A war of words has erupted over a grand plan to plant a tree alley in Lurline Street from the Katoomba CBD to the Three Sisters, with council concerns over funding dismissed by the Treeline Lurline Group.
The federal government announced last month that it would provide a $4 million grant to the project.
But the council said the project would likely cost $25 million and feared $4 million would only cover the undergrounding of power lines along a single block of the road.
Mayor Mark Greenhill feared taxpayers would be left to fund the rest of the project.
“If the council begins this work in partnership with the Katoomba Chamber of Commerce and the Treeline Lurline Committee, but the federal government does not commit additional funding to the project, then there will be immense pressure for the council and Blue Mountains taxpayers are funding the rest of it.”
He said the council would need assurances that the federal government would commit to providing the remaining funding.
Mark Jarvis, president of the Katoomba Chamber of Commerce and Community which successfully applied for the grant, and chair of the Treeline Lurline task force, Jessica Lawn, said the mayor’s position was “very disappointing”.
They said it looked like he was backtracking on the council’s already pledged support for the project.
“Indeed, such an all-or-nothing position appears to be designed to undermine a project of great benefit to both the community and the council which has recently attracted significant Commonwealth funding and does not require a dime from the council.”
They said projects were frequently completed in sections, citing the Grand Cliff Top Walk, Greater Blue Mountains Trail and Wentworth Falls Lake as typical examples of council infrastructure projects that are “funded and undertaken in manageable stages through to a combination of state and federal grants.
“None of these projects have an initial commitment from the government for full funding and the council has never requested such a commitment as a pre-condition for the start of the project. Experience shows that the successful completion of a stage of a project leads to other grants.”
Cr Greenhill said under the grant scheme the project had to be delivered by March 2024 and “that may not be enough time”.
But Mr Jarvis said Liberal Senator Marise Payne’s office had assured him the deadline could be extended.
The mayor also pointed to recent unexpected calls for council resources, with significant funds to be used to repair roads and other infrastructure damaged by storms and flooding.
He said the council still supported the project but needed ‘clear acknowledgment in writing, there is no expectation that we will pay the difference’.