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Councillor pressures GM to reveal Romiaka bridge cost blowout

Geoff Helisma |

The financial wash-up of a long-running dispute between Clarence Valley Council (CVC) and Delaney Civil, the company that built the unfinished Romiaka Channel Bridge, will be made public sometime in the future.

Under questioning from Cr Karen Toms at last week’s July 23 CVC meeting, general manager Ashley Lindsay conceded that “if that’s what council wants we [staff] will provide it”.

While no specific decision was taken by councillors to furnish a report on the matter, Mr Lindsay told the Independent in an emailed response to its questions that “a report will be presented to council once the matter has been finalised, which will show the final project cost”.

A transcript of CR Toms’ questioning provides a practical perspective on what occurred.

Karen Toms: Regarding the confidential report last month when can we expect a report would come back to council in regard to those negotiations and other information … which at this point in time is still confidential? When that will become non-confidential – I’m talking about the financial part of the resolution?

Ashley Lindsay: [Works and civil director Troy] Anderson can provide a response because I understand that negotiations have been resolved with the contractor.

Troy Anderson: Yes … that is correct; we’re in the process of finalising, or taking action on that resolution. In regard to the financial aspect of that resolution, I don’t expect that would become public because it’s a commercial arrangement between us and the contractor.

KT: So you’re telling me that the extra funding on that project, that councillors adopted in confidence, will never become public to our community; is that what you are saying?

TA: No, what I’ve said is that the commercial arrangement between us, as Clarence Valley Council, and the contractor won’t become public because it’s a commercial settlement.

KT: Maybe I’m not making myself clear. In the [June] resolution which is not public, there is a point in there with an increase in the budget; will that become public at some time in the future?

AL: We’ll take that question on notice.

KT: (Inaudible)

AL: As I said to you, you’ve emailed me those questions and I will respond to you when I have time to look at the questions. I’m not prepared to answer your question now on the spot. I received the email from you and you’re asking exactly the same questions as what is in the email.

KT: And it’s my right to ask questions, and I gave it to you in writing.

AL: Yes, but I didn’t have the opportunity to obtain or … consider an answer … I’m taking the question on notice.

KT: Okay, I’ll ask another question. At the final closing up (for want of another term) that that bridge work [will be] finalised in October, will the community receive a financial report of all the costs that councillors have approved, whether they are in confidential session or not?

AL: If that’s something the council wants we will provide it. There is nothing to hide here.

Mr Lindsay said in his emailed answers that Delaney Civil will complete the bridge.

In regard to the reasoning for keeping the June decision confidential under the Local Government Act, Mr Lindsay said: “The issue is that council provided delegated authority to the general manager to negotiate with Delaney Civil.

“If the details of the terms were made public, Delaney Civil would have been provided a commercial advantage prior to these negotiations being held.”