A months-long investigation commissioned by disgruntled North Wagga residents has demonstrated the extraordinary lengths they are willing to go to for improved flood protection.
The $30,000 investigation funded by the North Wagga Residents' Association involved a private investigator delving deeply into the business and financial interests of Wagga's sitting councillors.
The report's stated aim was to investigate the "reasons that some Wagga Wagga City Councillors may have in failing to approve precautionary measures to protect the North Wagga Wagga precinct from flooding".
While the final report, dated May 23, made "no conclusions to the North Wagga Wagga issue", it focused heavily on Councillor Rod Kendall, examining his pecuniary interest returns dating back to 2009-10.
It claims to have identified 17 counts of undeclared positions and interests and 16 counts of mischaracterising a company's principal objects, as well as one count of "incorrectly declaring to not be a property developer or a close associate of a corporation that is a property developer".
Cr Kendall told The Daily Advertiser that he is a property investor, not a property developer.
He said that to the best of his knowledge he had made all necessary declarations at appropriate times in relation to his interests.
Residents of North Wagga have been furiously fighting for a full levee upgrade since the 2012 floods, which left hundreds of homes ravaged by floodwaters and many families living in fear of the next big rain.
The upgrade of the North Wagga levee, which only affords a one-in-eight-year flood protection, was put on the back-burner when the council was told by the state government to focus on one levee at a time.
Construction of the Main City Levee has since been completed this year, affording Wagga's CBD protection from a one-in-100-year flood event, whereas across the river, North Wagga has only been offered a one-in-20-year flood levee and voluntary house raising.
North Wagga Residents' Association treasurer Fiona Ziff said they tried to follow Wagga City Council's direction, but residents "are being ignored" to the point where many feel the council is being "openly hostile" to the villagers.
It is "a unique situation" residents have been forced into, Ms Ziff said. With nowhere left to turn, she said they hired a lawyer and private investigator to get the attention required.
It is alleged in the report that Cr Kendall is a property developer because the company Horedav - of which he is a director - had a sizeable stake in a significant property development in Wagga's northern suburbs.
According to documents cited in the report, Horedav owned a 25 per cent interest in Boorooma Estate Pty Ltd, which purchased three blocks of land for $2.5 million in 2009. The same year the land was subdivided into 101 lots.
Cr Kendall's wife, Robyn Kendall, had her shareholding in Boorooma Estate deregistered this year.
The company made a submission to ASIC to deregister on June 12 this year.
In other news:
It was declared on Cr Kendall's pecuniary interest disclosures that he is not a property developer or a close associate of a corporation that is a developer.
Cr Kendall said he welcomed a thorough formal investigation by the Office of Local Government.
However, Cr Kendall said the association's decision to publicly circulate the report without allowing "a proper process" to occur beforehand was "extremely disappointing".
"North Wagga residents decided to make that matter public after having found out it was referred to the Office of Local Government. The reasons behind that, I have no idea," he said.
Cr Kendall said the decisions of all councillors are "very public and subject to scrutiny".
The report aimed to investigate the history of the councillors' decisions in regards to North Wagga flood mitigation, but Cr Kendall said there is no indication that this was investigated.
"I see no area of corruption in the council's decisions to date and no firm absolute decision has been made in relation to North Wagga," he said.
"There is an argument that the current activity from the North Wagga residents is actually preventing a substantive decision being made."
Ms Ziff claimed the report shows alleged discrepancies between "actual facts and what Cr Kendall fails to disclose".
She said the Office of Local Government has the power to go inside the council and find out if there are "contradictions and inconsistencies".
"We just need the Office of Local Government to have a look at the process and see if any codes have been breached," she said.
"We will let that play out while we get the state [government to build the 1-in-100-year levee without the council]."
Ms Ziff claimed the council's flood studies and reports concerning North Wagga flood risk mitigation has been "steered" to fit the organisation's agenda of "not wanting to spend any money" on the village.
Although the report relates to a number of individuals, Wagga City Council's general manager Peter Thompson said the bulk of it focused on Cr Kendall's interests dating back about 10 years.
Because of this, Mr Thompson said the report was referred to the Office of Local Government the day it was received, which was July 20.
"There are some issues identified there which might constitute an issue under the code of conduct and the approach procedure in those circumstances is for it be referred to the Office of Local Government," he said.
Mr Thompson said it is "not unusual" for individual councillors to be targeted by residents' groups in this manner.
Wagga mayor Greg Conkey, who the association has frequently accused of failing to do enough to secure improved protection, maintained that due process has always been followed in relation to flood mitigation works.
However, he said the "personal attacks" and "outlandish statements" made against him were concerning because his voting pattern showed his efforts to help the village wherever possible.
Cr Conkey said the council needs to consider the bigger picture and needed to be guided by independent expert studies to aid decision-making.
"I am no expert as far as flooding is concerned, but I have to be guided by an independent report. I have no axe to grind as far as North Wagga is concerned," he said.
Nothing is fair for all concerned, he said, but doing nothing leaves North Wagga with very limited protection.
Cr Conkey said there has been a lot of misinformation, but stressed it was not an easy situation otherwise previous councils would have found a solution for the matter already.