Councilor Ian Mutton told the extraordinary meeting that the transport agency’s actions were “totally unacceptable”.
“For one level of government to turn to another level of government and say that if you don’t comply with our request within 24 hours, we’re going to take $2.5 million from you is outrageous behavior,” he said.
Councilor James Spenceley argued that the cycleway was not a foregone conclusion and that the election could give the council a chance to negotiate the project with another government.
“This is not the time to give up, this is the time to fight,” he said.
Resident Joan Street said Transport for NSW’s “ultimatum” was a “desperate effort … as it wants to complete the contract before the start of the (government) interim period on Friday”.
Street said North Shore MP Felicity Wilson, a Liberal, wrote to active Transport Minister Rob Stokes asking Transport for NSW to delay the proposal until after the poll.
Bicycle NSW CEO Peter McLean said an environmental assessment of the project, showcased last year, generated 850 public submissions – only 50 of which were against the bike path.
He urged councilors to “listen to the silent majority – the 94 percent, the 800 positive responses.”
Transport for NSW’s Deputy Secretary for Cities and Active Transport, Kiersten Fishburn, told the meeting: “I know this probably seems like a rush job, but actually the request for permission from the landowner has been there for quite some time.”
Mayor Zoe Baker had to repeatedly call the public gallery to put things in order and ask those in attendance to “show some respect” after chuckling and shouting “absolute nonsense” at some of Fishburn’s comments.
Baker said the council had argued for better access to the bridge for cyclists, even though it disagreed with the government on the design. She said granting permission was “just one step” in the project.
“It is an absolute furphy to suggest that we have some sort of influence over Transport for NSW and that whatever happens in the state election will invariably change this project. That won’t happen,’ says Bakker.
The majority of councilors supported the council which accepted the government’s offer and granted access to the site.
A spokeswoman for Transport for NSW said infrastructure project delays led to rising costs “therefore Transport for NSW’s $2.5 million bid for public space improvements cannot be given without an expiration date”.
“Further delays to the project would result in the $2.5 million being absorbed by escalating costs,” she said.
The cycle path proposal is expected to be adopted in May at the earliest.
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