“All the mitigation benefits you get from raising the dam wall, you would reduce that benefit by putting more people in the path of a flood and that’s the last thing we would want to do,” he said. he stated last week.
For over a decade, New South Wales planning policy dictated that all new development must be built above the 1 in 100 chance per year flood threshold. Rezoning for residential development has been halted in the North West since March last year, while a flood strategy is in the works.
During Tuesday’s budget estimates, Ayres was also asked about the rollout of the $5 billion WestInvest fund, announced last year as a stimulus package to spur economic recovery from COVID-19. The first project should be delivered at the end of the year.
Grants through the fund will be available for 15 local government areas in Western Sydney, with $2 billion earmarked for priority community projects. The remaining $3 billion will be made available to NSW government agencies.
Mr Ayres, whose portfolio also covers trade, tourism and major events, said he would play no role in assessing applications and that guidelines for agencies to access funding would be issued “at a later date”.
Labor MP for the upper house, Daniel Mookhey, asked how the community could trust the fund would not be used as a ‘slush fund’ if guidelines had not yet been issued.
Mr. Ayres dismissed the principle of the question, adding: “I think there is a latent question about the integrity of the people who will be making recommendations.”
The minister was also asked about a comment he made in parliament last month, when asked about when an independent funding model would be announced for the state’s corruption watchdog.
“When they stop wasting our money,” he said at the time.
Mr Ayres said on Tuesday he was highly critical of the way the Independent Commission Against Corruption had timed its recent investigations.
“I want the ICAC to investigate corruption,” he said. “I didn’t think Gladys Berejiklian breached any code of conduct… My criticism of them was the decision to divert resources from existing investigations to the investigation that widened the scope of the former prime minister. “
Upper House Labor MP John Graham later said Mr Ayres’ comments were “surprising, given the billions of dollars this government has wasted on its own big projects”.