An investigation by Macquarie Fields MP Anoulack Chanthivong has uncovered a Liberal Government desperate to silence public debate on the relocation of Hurlstone Agricultural High School – a project maligned by mismanagement and questionable spending.
Mr Chanthivong has challenged Education Minister Rob Stokes to release secret documents that review all aspects of the relocation of Hurlstone to Western Sydney University’s Hawkesbury Campus, including the project’s value for money.
Mr Chanthivong has been denied access to the project’s complete Assurance Review but the limited number of emails released under Freedom of Information show the relocation of Hurlstone Agricultural High School “is considered a high risk to the department” with the Assurance Review needed “to bring the project back on track”.
Email discussions between senior Department officials have revealed startling admissions relating to the use of public funds and a desire to avoid public scrutiny. Email excerpts include:
“It’s possible that this section [of the Assurance Review] requires wording about comparing costs with other projects, how we are funding the project through the sale of the land, the fact that we are sending additional money on the unsuitable WSU block of land.”
“I would prefer to keep it [the Assurance Review] as Draft, that way it cannot be GIPA’d”.
“The absence of a formal, independently managed, Value Management Study is a major flaw in the project development process which, in large part, has lead [sic] to the position that the project finds itself in today.”
Quotes attributable to Mr Chanthivong:
“These shocking emails prove that the invaluable green open space of Hurlstone’s farm is being sold to greedy developers to fund a school relocation the Department itself labels high risk and flawed.
“The Minister has some very serious questions to answer, particularly around admissions that additional public money is being spent on unsuitable land at the Western Sydney University Hawkesbury Campus.
“I’ve been holding a series of mobile electorate offices and feedback from residents is clear: they want local students to be able to access an outstanding agricultural high school and they want the Liberal Government and greedy developers to keep their hands off Hurlstone’s farm.”