Potential office relocation, Biripi Way Taree

Former Masters building in Taree aerial view

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. We purchased the site in December 2017 as an opportunity to gain efficiencies by centralising 350 staff currently located across three sites in Taree and Forster.

Investigations have also looked at the option of refurbishing our existing buildings to establish a campus model, where staff would be moved to bring teams together.

While it’s estimated the fit out costs of the Biripi Way site will be more than the campus model, our modelling has shown that in the long term we will deliver lower operating costs and greater efficiencies to our community as a result of a centralised office arrangement.

A draft financing strategy for the fitout of the centralised office space was endorsed for consultation by Councillors at the 31 October council meeting. The draft strategy is now available for community feedback until Friday 14 December.

Click here to view the draft strategy, find out more about the project, and to provide feedback by completing a short survey.  

Click on the headings below to find out, 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.

November 2018:

A draft financing strategy for the project was endorsed by Councillors for public consultation at the 31 October Ordinary Meeting of Council. Community consultation is underway and closes on Friday 14 December. Click here to view the draft strategy and provide feedback.

The consultation phase will close on Friday 14 December, and feedback provided via the survey (both online and paper-based) will be compiled and presented for consideration by Councillors at a Council meeting (date to be confirmed).

At this meeting Councillors will make a decision on whether to proceed to the next stage of the project.

 

  • 5 November 2018 – Commencement of community consultation on the draft financing strategy. The opportunity for feedback will continue for 6 weeks until Friday 14 December.
  • 31 October 2018 – A draft financing strategy to fund the $20 million head office relocation project was endorsed by Councillors.
  • October 2018 – Revised Cost Benefit Analysis undertaken to assess the impact of more conservative property valuations for the Council administration buildings in Forster and Taree.
  • August 2018 - approval given by Councillors to proceed to the development of a financing strategy for the project.
  • March – July 2018 -  a detailed investigation into the feasibility of consolidating our administrative functions into a single office was conducted by project manager, Montlaur Project Services. This looked at design options and costings.
  • 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 – Councillors unanimously resolved to proceed with the purchase of the Biripi Way property as a commercial opportunity and the Contract for Sale was exchanged following the resolution.
       

Updated 2/10/18.

Additional FAQs relating  to the draft financing strategy are available on our have your say page. Click here(PDF, 374KB) to view the additional FAQs, for further information and to take the survey.

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.