MEMBER for Orange Phil Donato has promised to see the $25 million pledged for Orange’s purpose-built sporting precinct delivered if he’s re-elected next month.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian last week announced the funding in Orange, conceding it was conditional on both Nationals candidate Kate Hazelton toppling Mr Donato at the March 23 vote, and on her coalition government returning to power.
The incumbent Orange MP labeled the move a “bribe”, and said he and his Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party colleagues would refer the matter to the NSW Electoral Commission for investigation.
On Monday, Mr Donato said the Premier’s promise indicated the necessary funding was “ready to go”, and as such, he would make sure it was allocated to project.
If the Nationals get back into government and I am still holding this seat, I will make sure they deliver that sporting facility.Member for Orange Phil Donato
“If the Nationals get back into government and I am still holding this seat, I will make sure they deliver that sporting facility,” he said.
“Quite simply, there can be no conditions attached to providing what a community needs.”
The facility would boast an AFL, cricket and multipurpose oval; an athletic field and track with covered, tiered seating; and a main rugby union/league field with a 1500-seat grandstand and seating mounds, with a total capacity for 8500.
Mr Donato said he supported the sporting precinct plans, which have been developed by Orange City Council for a site adjacent to the Northern Distributor Road, as the town lacked a high-quality rectangular sporting facility and it would “allow Orange to attract and host elite level games such as the NRL”.
But he said feedback he’d received within the electorate about the Premier’s conditions indicated voters were “more than a little disgusted that someone could attempt to blackmail a community”.
“The state government is not there to withhold infrastructure with taxpayer money in order to play games; they are accountable to all communities across NSW.
“Our community will not stand for being treated as fools. We know how the government operates and what can be done.”
Mr Donato’s comments come in the wake of an attempt by Labor to draw Bathurst MP Paul Toole into the debate.
Labor’s candidate for Bathurst, Beau Riley, called on Mr Toole to make it clear whether he agreed with the sporting precinct ultimatum, describing it as a “tactic of threatening to withdraw funding from communities which don’t vote for her candidates”.
He said Mr Toole needed to guarantee the Nationals would deliver on their promises, even if his party was not returned to power.
When asked about Mr Riley’s comments, Mr Toole said he would not be lectured by a Labor candidate who he described as being out of touch.
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