Waste linked to housing program
Friday, 24th September, 2010
Unsatisfactory workmanship, unfinished projects, unliveable conditions and wastage are rife in the far west’s NSW Government Aboriginal Housing Program, according to the Member for Murray-Darling.
Mr John Williams said yesterday that he had seen first-hand the results of the work being undertaken in towns like Wilcannia, Menindee, Dareton and Balranald.
“In some instances, assurance has been given to the organisations that oversee the management of the properties, that construction and work to the Aboriginal houses would take 14 weeks to complete, and eight months later no progress has been made. In the meantime more damage was being done to the properties.”
Mr Williams said substantial amounts of money had been handed over to the contractors to pay for the work, but money is being wasted as the NSW Government is then having to pay the same amount again to ensure the work is completed.
“Builders are quoting ludicrous prices knowing the Government will accept,” he said. In Wilcannia the NSW Government paid up to $420,000 per house to be built, when at the same time a new, four-bedroom house and land package in Broken Hill was on the market for $330,000.
The Government is now in dispute with the builder over the performance of the contract. Mr Williams said there were also examples of shoddy workmanship. “I have been informed of houses that have bricks falling out and generally require lots of maintenance from shoddy work.
“So what type of value for money is being gained from these builders? “Builders ‘from away’ are also using the wrong type of building materials for the harsh climates that are experienced in regional NSW, which is adding to the wastage of money and unusable houses.”
Mr Williams said the NSW Department of Commerce had admitted there were defects. He said Menindee had still not received a single new house under the program, originally scheduled for completion in 2005.
“Many promises have been made to the Indigenous residents throughout the past five years with dates of completion being stated about houses being built. “So far, no houses have been built and as one resident has told me, the block hasn’t been cleared yet.”
Mr Williams said while indigenous workers were left untrained, there were unsubstantiated claims from builders who said employing local Indigenous workers doubled the cost. He said this was evidence that there have been no added benefits to employment in the area through the Aboriginal Communities Development Program (ACDP).
Residents have recently received a letter from Human Services Aboriginal Affairs NSW stating that the local Aboriginal building company could not progress the works as anticipated and was experiencing financial difficulties.
“It goes on to state consequently, the proposed new house, replacement houses and the refurbishments works have been delayed.” The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Paul Lynch, announced on June 18 that $5.3 million would complete Aboriginal Communities Development Program works.
That included $3 million for new housing. Minister Lynch also stated: “To date, the ACDP has delivered construction of 185 new houses, 80 replacement houses, 95 house purchases and refurbishment of more than 1000 houses.
This year, the ACDP will concentrate on rolling out the final stages of the program works in Menindee and Dareton”. Mr Williams said that the Minister for Housing, David Borger, advised in May 2009 that the Menindee community had been identified for $4.12 million under the Aboriginal Communities DevelopmentProgram.
“He also stated a timeframe when a particular house, which a resident was waiting on, was to be designed and constructed and it was a priority for the NSW Aboriginal Housing Office.
“This has not eventuated and the resident has now been waiting six years for the house they have been promised. “The Government needs to be held accountable for the money that is being wasted on houses that aren’t completed nor started.
“These residents just want the homes they were promised built and renovations done to a high quality and in the time frame promised,” Mr Williams concluded.