The fear and loathing of the Campbelltown Billabong Parklands project has been extraordinary.
In 40 years of covering the news in the area, I cannot recall another council initiative that has received so much opposition.
And it’s not just opposition; there is actually a lot of anger out there in Campbelltown ratepayer land about spending such a huge sum of money on what is perceived to be a very expensive glorified swimming pool.
Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I was talking to someone who loves the Billabong and can’t wait until it opens.
As a reporter I get around a lot and I am careful these days to avoid bringing up the subject – we’re stuck with the Billabong after all – but inevitably the person or persons I’m with will do so anyway.
This is a wide cross-section of Campbelltown we’re talking about and something tells me it will take a little while longer before the resentment will subside.
Many of the critics will mention the estimated cost of this project, which is now more than $40 million if you include special drainage works connected to it.
These works cost around $7-8 million and came out of council’s flood levy.
Let’s just make it clear now that none of this is the fault of the Campbelltown Mayor, George Greiss, who was elected to the top job in January of this year.
In fact, if it wasn’t for his insistence on having more transparency and accountability since coming to office, we’d still wouldn’t know about the drainage works for the Billabong.
Unfortunately, his predecessor, who was in the job as mayor for five years, wasn’t as passionate about the need to keep the public informed about council’s activities such as the Billabong.
Coming back to the present, the fact is we’re stuck with this project, which is now scheduled to open to the public in about 13 months.
It is only then that we will see if the critics who say most Campbelltown people won’t go within a cooee of it are right.
We will also – after 12 months of operation – see how much it will cost ratepayers to run it every year.
Business people I talk say to me, “$4 million at least’’.
Which, if it turns out to be true, will be the sting in the tail for those who championed this “liveability’’ project.