Thursday, May 30, 2024

Coffs defers $50m+ in scaled back capital works program

Coffs Harbour City Council has tonight voted to adopt a scaled back capital works program for 2022/23, deferring more than $50 million worth of projects.

Council said the decision will “maintain financial sustainability, set an achievable level of deliverability and to realign the expectations of both the Council and the community to a more sustainable level”.

Council recently reviewed both the unspent capital funds proposed to be revoted/carried forward from the 2021/22 financial year and the existing capital budgets within the original approved 2022/23 Operational Plan. The combined total of the 2021/22 revotes and the original 2022/23 capital budget amounted to $166.44 million.

“Council’s historical business-as-usual capital expenditure capacity is approximately $60m per annum, this is excluding any one-off, large-scale externally-managed capital projects. Therefore a capital works program of $166.44m is over $100m in excess of Council’s baseline capacity,” it said in a statement.

“This is both financially burdensome – because of its related annual depreciation and maintenance costs – and operationally undeliverable in one financial year with the current resourcing levels.”

At tonight’s Extraordinary Meeting, Council resolved to defer $53.45 million and remove $1.76 million from its projected capital program, with a revised capital program of $111.23 million. 

It says the primary outcome of the process would be three-fold:

  • to set a more realistic capital program that can be delivered in one financial year;
  • to more effectively stagger the impact of depreciation; and
  • to realign the expectations of both the Council and the community to a more sustainable level.

“This reset is about being realistic and financially responsible and making sure we have the ability to resource the capital program,” said Council General Manager, Natalia Cowley.

Ms Cowley led the review which took account of ongoing grant obligations and other commitments.

“There has also been a cumulative impact from Council’s success in receiving significantly higher than usual Federal and State grant funding from election promises and bushfire and pandemic stimulus programs, as well as constructing some large scale assets,” she said.

“So we have taken stock and are moving ahead with a different approach, which coupled with the global labour and supply chain issues, is the right path to take.  We want to make sure we set realistic community expectations.”

Major works to be deferred to the 2023-2024 financial year include:

  • Sportz Central Upgrade $6.032m;
  • Upgrade of Sawtell and Woolgoolga Pools $9.45m;
  • S7.11 North Boambee Road raising and infrastructure works $7.8m;
  • Brelsford Masterplan Works $4.0m;
  • Water supply infrastructure capital works $3.25m; and
  • Sewer treatment infrastructure capital works $6.74m.

Councillors agreed that the deferral of the Sportz Central Upgrade is conditional on the funding providers agreeing that the grant can be spent in the 2023-2024 financial year.

The resulting reduction to the 2022-2023 capital works program will also mean a reduction of projected operating costs such as depreciation, general operating and maintenance, Council confirmed.

Community will be “disappointed” say MPs

In a joint statement, State Member for Coffs Harbour, Gurmesh Singh and Federal Member for Cowper, Pat Conaghan said the community would be “rightly disappointed to see promised infrastructure like this once again delayed without a timeline for completion”.

“Coffs Harbour City Council has tonight voted to defer a number of critical projects previously in the pipeline that would directly enhance the livability and economic strength of the region,” the MPs said.

“Many of these projects had been approved and jointly funded by the Federal and State
Governments. Projects like the much awaited redevelopment of Sportz Central, which received a $6.3 million grant from the Federal Government in 2019 and a subsequent $1.1million from the State Government in recent weeks.

“It needs to be said that these projects are predominantly being deferred due to the Cultural and Civic Space Project. This single project has been revealed to be an extremely poor financial decision and a drain on the many other worthy and previously funded projects.”

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