Potential office relocation, Biripi Way Taree

Former Masters building in Taree aerial view

MidCoast Council currently operates from four main administrative centres (two in Forster, one in Taree and one in Gloucester), a legacy of the amalgamations that took place between May 2016 and July 2017.

As part of our aim to deliver further efficiencies and streamline our operations, the opportunity to consolidate our administrative functions in Taree and Forster into one single location is currently being considered.

The site under investigation for this purpose is the former Masters building on Biripi Way, Taree (which council acquired in December 2017).

Click on the headings below to find out more about the office relocation investigation project, what has happened so far, where we are at now, and what’s next.

Please check back here occasionally, as the information will continue to be updated as the project progresses.

March – July 2018: A detailed investigation into the feasibility of consolidating our administrative functions into a single office is being conducted by project manager, Montlaur Project Services.

Design options and costings are being developed to provide Councillors with a clear and accurate overview of the estimated cost of relocating services to a central site to support them in their decision making.

Councillors will consider the findings from the investigation phase at a closed workshop on 18 July.

It is expected that the outcome of this workshop will inform a business paper with recommendations on whether to proceed to the next stage of investigation, to be presented at a Council meeting in August 2018.

  •  28 February 2018 – Following discussions at a prior workshop, Councillors resolved to proceed with a detailed investigation into the feasibility of consolidating council administrative functions into a single office at the Biripi Way location.
  •  21 January 2018 – Council noted the appointment of Montlaur Project Services as the successful tenderer for the contract to act as project managers to further investigate the feasibility of the centralisation of council’s administrative functions, as part of the ‘initiation stage’ of the project.
  • 20 December 2017 - Councillors endorsed a gateway process for the management of the project. This five stage process means findings at each of the five stages in the process have to be formally reviewed and assessed by Councillors, who then make a decision on whether the project moves forward to the next stage.
  • December 2017 – A preliminary business case was prepared by external consultants, with the objective of understanding the cost benefit of a single office for council administration purposes versus continuing to maintain the administration sites in Taree and Forster. The business case indicated a single site was viable, and Councillors accepted this finding.
  • 4 December 2017 Council purchased the Biripi Way property.  
  • 2 November 2017 – Council resolved to proceed with the purchase or the Biripi Way property as a commercial opportunity and the Contract for Sale was exchanged following the resolution.
       

Updated 10/7/18

Why purchase this building?

Council saw this as a commercial opportunity and investigated options to purchase the site for significantly under its replacement value. The building is not only an excellent commercial opportunity, it is also considered to be a viable option for a centralised administration building.

A centralised administration building will allow us to bring teams together from across the organisation so that we can deliver more effective and efficient services to the community.

Why would Council be interested in commercial opportunities?

MidCoast Council is a commercial and entrepreneurial organisation. Council makes purchases that are strategic in nature and provide either a commercial return or community benefit (e.g carparking).

Many of these sites provide an income for Council which not only goes back into community services and infrastructure but also puts downward pressure on rates.

We currently own:

  • Woolworths supermarket in Peel Street, Tuncurry
  • Motel and other land in Wallis Street, Forster
  • Bottle Shop in Lake Street, Forster
  • Civic Precinct site in Lake Street, Forster
  • 6ha residential land in Chapmans Road, Tuncurry
  • Aviation Business Park in Taree
  • Land forming part of the proposed "Northern Gateway" transport precinct
  • Existing Council office buildings and depots

Where is the money coming from?

Prior to a decision being made by Councillors to proceed with the project, Council’s internal finance team will assess the proposed cost implications outlined in the investigation report and consider options for the most appropriate funding arrangements (should the project proceed).  Council will present a proposed funding strategy as part of the initial gateway phase.

Will the funding of the roads/bridge program be affected by the purchase?

No. We are committed to improving roads and bridges across the MidCoast region, and have recently attracted $50 million in NSW Government funding, which we will match through the existing special rate variation, to deliver a $100 million roads and bridges program over four years.

This is on top of the $30 million roadcare program we are currently delivering to our community. This was funded by merger savings and Stronger Communities funding from the NSW Government.

All of this is on top of our existing roads maintenance program and separate funding allocations we have received for bridge renewals from the Federal Government and Bucketts Way funding from the NSW Government.

What Council buildings do we have that would be affected by the move?

  • Council Administration, Pulteney Street, Taree
  • Water Services, Muldoon Street, Taree
  • Council Administration, Breese Parade, Forster
  • Water Services, Breese Parade, Forster

Information on the value of these buildings will be incorporated into the detailed feasibility study, and will form part of the decision on whether the site should be used as a centralised office or other commercial opportunities.

If administrative functions moved into one building, a face-to-face point of contact would remain in Forster. It is anticipated that the depots and district offices would not be affected.

It is important to remember that to retrofit the existing Council offices to ensure they are fit for purpose will come at a cost. Currently Council is operating out of a number of offices and our teams are currently dispersed across multiple sites. To bring teams together will require moving staff and re organising work teams and this will require a refit of the existing buildings.

How much is it going to cost to fitout this building?

A detailed investigation into the feasibility of consolidating our administrative functions into a single office is being conducted by project manager, Montlaur Project Services.

Design options and costings are being developed to provide Councillors with a clear and accurate overview of the estimated cost of relocating services to a central site to support them in their decision making.

Is the use permissible on the site?

The land is zoned B5 Business Development under the Greater Taree Local Environmental Plan 2010.

A public administration building (Council offices) is permitted with consent.

What about the staff and the impact on them?

If a change in location is determined to be the best option we will continue to liaise with staff to understand the potential impacts and minimise these where possible.

Staff will also be impacted if a decision is made to bring teams together in existing buildings, and we will liaise with staff on this scenario as well.

Why the Masters site?

This was a unique commercial opportunity that presented itself.

To house approximately 400 staff and associated facilities we need a building that is around 6000sqm.

We are looking at the most cost effective option to deliver greater value for money for our ratepayers.

What about other Council services, are they moving too?

We anticipate there will be minimal or no impact to other services such as MidCoast Assist, Libraries, Visitor Information Centres, district offices and depots.

In addition a face-to-face point of contact will remain in Forster for transactions over the counter. We are constantly looking at ways to improve efficiencies that deliver greater value for money for our ratepayers.

How is this going to deliver benefits?

We are constantly looking at ways to improve efficiencies that deliver greater value for money for our ratepayers. The potential consolidation of Council’s administrative functions will mean tangible savings and operational efficiencies. Information on this was provided in the detailed business case. Integration of teams has been hampered and challenging with staff dispersed across the region. Our focus is on ensuring our staff work collaboratively to streamline processes and work holistically to deliver the best possible outcome for our community.