Civic Centre remains closed

Saturday, 8th July, 2017

By Andrew Robertson

The troubled Civic Centre will remain closed until September as a report into its unauthorised use by council is due to be handed to the NSW Ombudsman next week.

An independent probity audit into “some contractual aspects” of the project, which has been beset by problems and delays, is also underway. 

Council shut the centre, which has undergone a $5 million redevelopment, in late May shortly after it had hosted two events, to address “various issues” with the building.

General Manager James Roncon said that work would involve fixing problems with the lighting, plumbing and sinks in the revamped bathrooms, as well as a number of other areas.

The closure forced the relocation of a number of events, including the Comedy Festival and RFDS ball.

It was expected to reopen at the beginning of this month but shortly after it closed it was revealed council did not have an occupation certificate, despite the centre hosting the Civic Ball and Nationals Conference. 

Mr Roncon said he decided to allow the events to proceed regardless because council only found out at the last minuite that it hadn’t secured the certificate and the safety risk to people was extremely low.

“As we understood it, the only hurdles were around the lodging of the paperwork and some minor issues with the stairs, and we accordingly prepared for our events as originally scheduled,” Mr Roncon said in a statement on June 13.  

The lack of full certification came to light at the same time council revealed it had been asked by the NSW Ombudsman to explain how the events came to be held without the appropriate documentation.

A council spokesman told the BDT this week that a report about usage of the centre would be forwarded to the Ombudsman before the agreed deadline of July 14.

He said council still had not obtained an occupation certificate for the centre but that certifiers would be due back in the city next week.

“Builders have made good recent progress, and certifiers have been booked to assess the centre for occupancy on July 11,” he said.

“Council has cleared all events until the end of August as a precautionary measure.”

Meanwhile, the spokesman said that a probity audit of the project management that was announced in June had now started.

Mr Roncon has conceded the centre revamp, which was funded by the state government’s Resources for Regions program, had been “hampered by problems from the outset”. 

Architects Allen Jack + Cottier designed and managed the project and Adelaide builders Unique Urban Built carried out the work.

“An independent firm has been engaged for the audit, and that process is now underway,” the spokesman said.

Council was asked why the audit was being conducted and who was conducting it but did not provide answers.

It is also unclear whether they will release the findings of the audit.