Stuart Ayres tells Icac inquiry into Gladys Berejiklian he believed $5.5m grant ‘had a lot of merit’

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The lawman person of the New South Wales Liberal enactment Stuart Ayres has told Icac helium believed a $5.5m assistance for a shooting scope and league centre successful Wagga Wagga “had a batch of merit”, contempt nationalist servants antecedently telling the enquiry they thought a concern lawsuit for the task was “deficient”.

The Independent Commission against Corruption connected Friday heard grounds from Ayres, who was the curate for athletics successful 2016 erstwhile the multimillion dollar assistance astatine the centre of the enquiry into the behaviour of erstwhile premier Gladys Berejiklian was considered. He told the proceeding helium was “quite predisposed” to the project.

The anti-corruption watchdog has heard erstwhile Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, who was successful a concealed narration with Berejiklian, repeatedly lobbied for the assistance task from arsenic aboriginal arsenic 2012.

Ayres, who is not accused of immoderate wrongdoing, told the enquiry helium was archetypal approached by Maguire astir the task soon aft becoming the NSW curate for athletics successful 2014, but that his requests for backing were initially knocked back.

But aboriginal successful 2016 Ayres visited the Australian Clay Target Association tract successful Wagga Wagga with Maguire, and was convinced the task “had a batch of merit” successful portion owed to an upcoming shooting satellite championship.

“I was rather predisposed peculiarly to the clubhouse concept,” helium said.

Ayres’s bureau had antecedently fixed the organisation $40,000 to hole a concern case, which, erstwhile completed, convinced him the task was a “strong” campaigner for authorities funding.

Despite reasoning the benefits of the task successful the concern lawsuit were “optimistic”, the curate said it gave him “the validation I was looking for”, partially due to the fact that the benefits to Wagga Wagga would person been significant.

Icac has antecedently heard that bureaucrats successful the bureau of athletics were asked to hole an urgent submission to the government’s almighty expenditure reappraisal committee successful November 2016, contempt them having deemed the task a “low priority”.

Ayres told the enquiry that the “urgency” was owed to the satellite title shooting lawsuit that had been secured for 2018.

Bureaucrats wrong the section person antecedently told the enquiry the concern lawsuit was “deficient” and elements of the program “didn’t stack up”.

Ayres said helium did not person “any recollection” of those concerns being raised with him.

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Icac is investigating whether Berejiklian breached the nationalist spot by “exercising nationalist functions” successful a presumption of struggle due to the fact that of her narration with Maguire. She has denied immoderate wrongdoing.

The $5.5m fixed to the Australian Clay Target Association’s clubhouse and normal centre successful 2017 is 1 of 2 grants astatine the centre of the probe, on with $30m fixed to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music successful Wagga Wagga successful 2018.

The committee has heard grounds that nationalist servants and advisers wrong the bureau of the then-premier Mike Baird believed the task was being sped done the expenditure reappraisal committee due to the fact that it had the enactment of Berejiklian.

In a briefing enactment to Baird successful December 2016, 1 of his main advisers, Nigel Blunden, told the premier some Berejiklian and Ayres “want” the project, and said: “No uncertainty they’ve done a sweetheart woody with Daryl.”

Ayres denied determination had been immoderate woody oregon that determination were governmental implications to his enactment for the money, saying helium “definitely” wasn’t acrophobic about, for example, trying to stem gains successful the NSW regions by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party.

He besides said helium had nary recollection of speaking to Berejiklian astir the task anterior to it going earlier the expenditure reappraisal committee, though helium conceded that it was imaginable “through the mean people of interactions with a curate and treasurer”.

The proceeding continues.