COUNCIL MEETING - Wednesday 26 November 2008
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council Administrator Dick Persson tonight told a packed gallery that Council will not support the rezoning of part of Westport Park.
Mr Persson said, "After considering all the issues of the Foreshore Masterplan, it is the view of this Council that the case for changing the use from public open space to commercial uses, including tourist accommodation and an industrial style boatstack has not been made. In fact there appears to be no persuasive planning or economic argument to warrant the site's rezoning".
"Accordingly, the Council will not support rezoning this large area of open space for the purposes proposed in the Ariadne project," Mr Persson said.
"As a matter of courtesy I have conveyed this position to the NSW Minister for Lands, the Hon Tony Kelly at a meeting in Sydney on Monday.
"In regard to the current uses of the area, I acknowledge that more and improved boat ramps and boat trailer parking will be required as the region grows. While the Wesport facilities need improving, it is not agreed that Westport Park is the right location for the inevitable expansion," said Mr Persson.
Council adopted a series of recommendations including undertaking a waterways recreational needs study to identify and set in place a strategic plan to meet future recreational boating needs.
Council also agreed to accept an offer from the Minister for Lands to jointly prepare a draft Plan of Management for the remaining waterfront Crown Land between the northern tip of the crown land at Settlement Point and Town Beach and to include the work and public feedback carried out by Council under the Foreshore Master Plan process.
The final concept plan outlining Council's preferred position will be placed on exhibition for a further two weeks, with a final position being brought to the Council Meeting on 17 December 2008.
Glasshouse Financial Review
State Government Project Management Consultant, Mr Alan Griffin, presented an Administrator's Minute at tonight's Council Meeting that gave an updated financial projection for the Glasshouse, Art Entertainment and Conference Centre.
Mr Griffin told the meeting that following the appointments of the new General Manager and Project Director, a number of financial variations have been identified since the previous review of the project in March this year. The project cost variations total $3.7 million, which in simple terms is made up of increased consultancy costs due to the project delays, additional fit-out costs, completion of the Hay street forecourt area and the final compensation figure for the land acquisition. These costs where not previously budgeted.
"A further $1.1 million of costs has been identified alongside the Glasshouse as non-project costs. This money is for things such as the Visitor Information Centre relocation, the rental of Gallery space during construction and the Public Inquiry. These costs will be transferred into Council's operating works budget but essentially it is all the same organisation," Mr Griffin said.
Administrator Dick Persson confirmed that this revised financial forecast would have a significant and detrimental effect on the Council budget and stated that he has no interest in sugar coating this issue.
"These additional costs are very significant and will impact on the service delivery of this Council. Hard decisions will need to be made, and soon."
"As a Council we remain committed to the Glasshouse and the positive benefits the centre will have for this community, but there is no denying that it has come at a huge cost," Mr Persson said.
Council's Financial Position
Tonight's Council Meeting has been told that an increase in the construction costs of the Glasshouse and a number of large one-off unbudgeted costs will have a $7.1 million negative impact on Council's financial position.
A $3.7 million increase in the cost of the Glasshouse, the $1.1 million in additional costs (see above), unrealised land asset sales of $1.9 million due to planning conditions and market conditions, $200,000 in legal fees involving alleged land clearing at Herons Creek and an investment interest deficit of $200,000 have been identified as contributing factors to the deficit.
Council's Corporate and Business Services Director, Tony Leahy said, "It is proposed that the 'one off' costs relating to the Glasshouse be funded by way of borrowings.
"Also, Council has already undertaken a systematic approach to addressing the likely deficit. The General Manager & Directors, in conjunction with the Chief Financial Officer & senior finance staff are reviewing the works and operating budgets of each section of Council 'line-by-line' in order to identify potential areas of cost reduction.
"At this stage the Executive Team is confident of generating enough savings to eliminate the deficit prior to the end of the financial year," said Mr Leahy.
A full report of the planned approach will be presented to the 17 December 2008 Council Meeting.
A report to Council tonight outlined the continuing construction plan for the Glasshouse. The design of the current facility commenced in June 2004 and the construction contract was approved in December 2006 at a cost of $26.67M. The budget of $43M was approved in March 2008.
The Builder's monthly construction report for October indicates that the building is now 76% complete, overall expenditure remains behind program due to previous construction program delays.
The building's structure is mostly complete, with the Level 6 winch room cladding remaining. The completion of this cladding will see the auditorium and the building watertight.
Facade works have continued with the majority of the upper level glazing and flashing completed this month and the removal of the scaffolding from the Clarence Street façade.
Basement finishes including partitions, linings, tiling, paving and painting continue to progress well.
Auditorium flooring for the tiered seating is nearing completion with the majority of scaffolding removed from the auditorium.
The Project Manager's Monthly Report for October indicates the expected practical completion of the building remaining late March 2009, with the official opening now likely to be mid June/July.
Futures Development Board in Place
Council tonight accepted the nominations of eight local residents as members of the inaugural Port Macquarie-Hastings Futures Development Board.
The Board has been formed to act as a 'futurist' body by identifying and raising awareness of future major opportunities and challenges to the Greater Port Macquarie economy across a range of industries.
Council adopted to appoint Eva Cassegrain, Joanne Gwatkin, Kathryn Knowles, John Meyers, Brian Tierney, Joy Corben, Gary Murcott and Rob Eddy to the Board along with Council's General Manager Andrew Roach.
Council Administrator Dick Persson said, "I am very pleased with the quality of the successful applicants and congratulate them on their initiative of putting their hand up to help drive economic development in our local area."
The successful applicants. who generally represent a cross-section of industry. were elected for their foresighting capacity and ability to forward think rather than the position they might hold in an industry body.
The Port Macquarie-Hastings Futures Development Board will research, analyse, discuss and make recommendations to Council regarding those trends considered to be of significance to future industry & business projects, especially in the medium to long term including the impacts of climate change.
Council sells Commercial Waste Service
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council tonight accepted a tender of $255,000 for the purchase of Council's commercial waste service. Waste service company J R Richards & Sons was the successful tender.
Council commenced a commercial waste service four years ago and focused on businesses in and around the Port Macquarie CBD. The collection service filled a void that was not being met by other commercial waste service providers.
Director of Infrastructure Services, Steve Finlay told the Council meeting the business had grown significantly and the decision needed to be made as to either expand the operation or to discontinue in the business. Commercial waste collection is not considered as a core Council activity and as such, it has been determined that this activity is best left to private enterprise.