The December Maclean Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 president’s report to its members doesn’t hold back in its criticism of the stalled development of McLachlan Park.
Since the Butterworth Plan – to open the CBD up to the river – surfaced decades ago, co-presidents David Cooper and Peter Gordon wrote, the park’s redevelopment has “been strangled and submerged in the absolute disaster of Bureaucratic ineptitude”.
At last week’s council meeting, councillors supported the officer’s recommendation to not award a contract to redevelop the park; instead, the council will investigate “alternate methodologies” to deliver the project.
These will be reported to the February 2016 council meeting.
Acting on a decision made at the September council meeting, the council completed negotiations with three companies that tendered for the project.
However, the negotiations were unsuccessful in reaching a figure within the project’s budget – there is $1,213,539.30 remaining of the $1,442,313.55 funding for the project – $150,000 of which is a Boating Now grant to renew the existing pontoon and build new amenities.
Negotiations were premised on modifying the Vee Design master plan to: construct the northern and southern decks at a future stage; construct two of the four flood gates at a future stage; delete bollards from the proposed car park and replace with kerb; delete concrete pavement in the car park and replace with asphalt; construct furniture and art at a future stage; and, construct internal terrace walls at a future stage.
The report to council also recommended that the council directly procure the removal of four camphor laurel trees and the construction of the central picnic shelter, pontoons and toilet.
Council staff reported to councillors in November 2014 that that they expected a $480,500 overrun, which included “a refined cost” of $130,000 to build a boardwalk “derived from preliminary engineering”, based on the King & Campbell draft master plan.
At the March 2015 meeting, in advice to councillors, staff questioned King & Campbell’s “creativity with refining the elements of the project [within] budget constraints” and recommended Vee Design, as it had the ability to “offer innovative solutions appropriate to deliver the project.
The council subsequently engaged Vee Design to redesign the master plan.
At last week’s council meeting, Cr Andrew Baker moved a foreshadowed motion “to take no further action during the term of this council”, which ends in September 2016.
However, this was not debated, as the officer’s recommendation was adopted.
During debate, the mayor flagged looking for additional funds from other sources “for the plans that we have”.
Cr Baker said the plan was “too far away” from the original intent of the Maclean Riverside Precinct Plan adopted in 2012 (the Clouston plan).
“A nice little boardwalk,” was all that was needed, he said, and that the design should have focussed on “getting the ground level back to where it should be” and staying within the budget.
Cr Simmons lamented the time taken so far, although he hoped that something would happen as a result of the report to council in February 2016.
He said “people want to see a boardwalk put in place” not the three timber decks.
Cr Toms said the plan was “too grand” and that the process was getting to the “embarrassing stage”.
She said she “wished … we had actually done something; all we’re doing is wasting money on red tape and bureaucracy … and now we’re talking about getting more funding”.
Cr Toms restated her view from the September meeting; that the price negotiations would fail.
Cr McKenna said “we’ve had public consultations” and criticised Cr Baker’s involvement in removing all four camphor laurel trees.
She wondered if some councillors had “crystal balls”, when it came to predicting the negotiations’ outcome.
“I think that was a ridiculous statement; that we knew in September that there would be no drop in price,” she said.
“Who are the experts on this?” She asked, saying that the staff had that knowledge.
Cr Howe said: “It seems it was a bad thing [according to things said during debate] that we held numerous public consultation meetings and tried to fit everything in that the community wanted – that to me is what we should be doing.
“…We are continually criticised for not listening … and nothing ever happening; and here we are faced with a foreshadowed motion to rub this out for at least 10 more months.”
Councillors Williamson, Lysaught, Howe, Simmons, Kingsley, McKenna and Hughes voted to proceed with the project; Crs Baker and Toms voted against.