Wagga councillors have approved a ‘critical’ Riverina Intermodal Freight Hub budget to help the city’s bid for $35 million in state government grants.
Wagga City Council held an extraordinary meeting on Monday to discuss spending an additional $333,000 on project management for stage two of the freight hub.
Council hoped to be able to identify a new partner for the project within the next four weeks, which will expedite a request for millions in rail funding.
The council will seek $14m for rail infrastructure and $21m for industrial subdivision from the NSW government.
Councillors had been asked for “critical” funding to secure a partner for a joint application around the project within a short time to access the major infrastructure grants.
Councillors approved the motion without debate.
Wagga council general manager Peter Thompson said the vote had allowed him to move forward with the effort to secure state funding.
“I can now enter into a contract with the consultant company to do up detailed concept designs and complete the paperwork that is required for our amended application for the grant funding,” he said.
“We have been advised that we are going to be shortlisted for the ‘Growing Local Economies’ grant application but what that means is that we need to get the next stage in very quickly, because there is obviously an election next year.
“It’s gearing up to be at least able to maximise our chances under both those applications.”
Mr Thompson said the council had resolved to approve the contact back in 2015.
“The reason we refreshed it tonight as there has been a council election since then and we have now got much more certainty around what that stage two looks like,” he said.
“It was a chance to do it in open part of the meeting so people can see what we are up to.”
Mr Thompson said the council would lodge an application for funding under ‘Fixing Country Rail’ grants within the next two weeks.
“I would expect that we would get some word on the growing economies within the next three or four weeks, and we will respond to that almost immediately,” he said.
“We have got a Heads of Agreement with our partner; we would hope to be making the announcement about that partner public within the next four weeks.”
Announced in 2012, the freight project was designed to “deliver strong economic dividends for Wagga”, according to Regional Development Australia.
The hub was intended to provide “freight consolidation, logistics support and open access to rail transport services for businesses throughout the Riverina and Murray regions”.
Councillors were asked on Monday to approve an option in an existing contract with WSP Australia for project management services to cover stage two of the road and rail freight hub at the Bomen industrial estate near Wagga.
“The estimated cost to engage WSP for this scope of works is $333,460 excluding GST,” a report to councillors written by Mr Thompson stated.
According to the same report, the NSW Government has informed council that modifying its application for $14 million in funding for the freight hub’s rail siding and terminal “will ensure the success of the application”.
“The $21m industrial subdivision, enabling infrastructure and bulk earthworks is proposed to be funded through the State Government’s Growing Local Economies funding program,” the report stated.
“Council has submitted an expression of interest for this funding and it is expected that the project will be shortlisted in the very near future requiring the development of a detailed business case.
“If shortlisted, the detailed business case is expected to be submitted within a very short timeframe.”
“In order to develop the detailed business case within the set timeframes and according to the specifications of the program, it is critical that Council engage the technical services of WSP Australia now to assist with its development.”
Council will also submit an update projection for freight volume at the hub.
Construction on stage one of the freight hub started in 2016 but as of April 2018 it was unclear if US rail giant Genesee & Wyoming would continue its association with the project.
Counllors have previously approved $308,590 for the project, which has been combined with a “budget saving of $189,975 on the Bomen Roads project stage one”.
The council has already spent $145,699 of that allocation, leaving $352,866 available with which to pay WSP Australia for expanded project management services.