Swan v Cecato – Councillors talk to Moffee about last night’s CCS decision

Two very interesting interviews this morning pertaining to last night’s contentious CCS vote.

Click on the URL below to hear the two interviews on TripleM Coffs Coast this morning.


Here also is Cr Swan’s reply to the three open questions reported on in the following CCO story late last week;


Cr Tegan Swan

“Hi Rob, sorry for the delayed reply. It’s been a rather busy week as you can imagine.

Here are my responses to your questions…

As you can see from the non-confidential parts of the report in the latest business paper it is estimated that the final costs will be 6.2% ($4.75m) over the anticipated figure. If we take into consideration that it is generally standard practice for public and private projects to include the cost of associated civil surrounding infrastructure, which in this case would incorporate Riding Lane ($5m approx.) and Gordon Street ($486K approx.) , the additional cost would take the project over $87.5m.    

Interestingly, the City Centre Masterplan 2031 also suggests that the Castle Street carpark should be upgraded including a new lift and shade sales for the roof, new painting and signage for the provision of convenient and accessible parking ensuring maximum utilisation of infrastructure at a cost of just over $1m.

This brings the project total closer to $89m, approximately 16% over budget.

If we were also to apply our own developer contributions requirements to the plan as we do to others wishing to undertake developments in our city for the sake of equity, the requirements would add $352,365 at the general contribution rate for cultural facilities (0.3 of the standard rate per 100m2) this was calculated only including the library, gallery, museum, co-working space, café and amenities – I have not included any civic spaces, meeting rooms, customer service, council offices or any of the supporting infrastructure into space measurements for the above calculation or for the parking requirements following.

Currently based on the above floor space ratio as indicated for this type of facility (most closely described in the DCP as a Public Administration Building) we are required to provide 110 additional off street car-parking spaces. This is excluding the council office element and associated basement carpark which appears not to be for public use. Based on these figures and our current CBD parking contribution rate as at 29 oct 2020 this would add another $2.5m approx. to the project costs.

Interestingly if you calculate the floor space of the council elements of the project including only customer service, council admin offices and exec area and exclude the chamber, functional outdoor space, services, circulation, or end of trip facilities the number of off street carparks required by the DCP is 74.2 and there are exactly 74 car parking spaces in the basement carpark.    

To finish off the total costings, using data and percentages from the latest version of the Asia Pacific Cost Trends Guide for construction furniture fixtures and equipment the average cost or budget allocation consist of about 20% – 30% of the total project cost with technology averaging between 6% – 12%.

Given we can be a bit thrifty and reuse some of the equipment and furniture we already own let’s go with 15% and work below the industry average trends and we’ll take the lower average for the technology as well (even though it’s arguably an important element in what we’re hoping to achieve through the delivery of this project).  

Based on the original cost plan (not the 6.2% current increased version) That would give us $11.5m approx. for furniture fixtures and equipment and $4.6m approx. for technology. I can’t tell you the allocated figures because they’re confidential but our allocations based on the cost plan are only a small portion of that for the FFE and slightly better for the technology elements.

Using these estimates adds more than $10m in costs onto the project for these elements alone.

There’s more I’d like to say on exclusions included in the cost plan but as it is a confidential document due to commercial in confidence. Which I’m not sure of the insistence of given the procurement process chosen.

As such, I am unable to provide specifics but I do believe it is fair and transparent to say without any risk to the above mentioned commercial in confidence, that there is an entire page of more than 20 exclusions not included in this cost plan. 

So here’s where we’re at in a nutshell: (costs are approximate and rounded up or down appropriately)

Currently anticipated cost of: $80m+ 

Associate civil works usually included in project costs: $6.5m

Developer contributions: $2.85m

Additional FFE + IT: $10m

= $100m + total project cost. 30% over the anticipated figure. (CCO emphasis added)

Currently there is a minimal contingency amount in the cost indicated in the current business paper but it is significantly less that the contingency metrics used by the state government for infrastructure developments of 25%. This would add an additional $25m to the project based on these projects.

I do believe we deserve amazing facilities and I really love what the proposed building offers us. For me to support the project progressing further my biggest concern isn’t the “real cost” of the project it’s our ability to meet the level of service we provide as expected (and deserved) by our community.

The last time we looked at this (and the metrics to show we can afford this project based on current level of standards) were undertaken back in 2014 and were related to the council’s application for a special rate variation to address the then $62m infrastructure backlog.

The results of the consultation showed that our community does have higher expectations for levels of service but an unwillingness to pay for them. The assessment did receive some criticism for linking level of service to rate rises which had a significant potential to skew the results of people accepting lower levels of service to avoid increased rate costs.

I believe we have our allocation of resources and levels of service out of alignment with what our community wants from us. From 2014 to 2017 council applied a stage special rate variation totalling 23.79% by the end of the 3rd year.

This SRV exists in perpetuity and was agreed upon by IPART to address the annual $6.2m shortfall in annual funding for asset maintenance.  While it’s not an equal or possible comparison imagine the impacts $100m would have across the LGA if it were used to address higher priority and more urgently needed upgrades.

Currently based on the financial and social benefits analysis conducted as part of the project development there is a risk of the project dipping below the acceptable cost benefit ratio if the estimated figures of a 50% increase in visitation is not realised in 5 years (the visitation numbers used are considered aspirational) making the project economically unviable. Excluding finances and focusing on the wider community benefit analysis, the project received only a moderate benefit to the community rating at 4.7/10.

To me that’s not even a pass.

Regarding the sale of council buildings, I would rather us look to other innovative communities across Australia and the world who are leading the way in addressing affordable housing.

Given the situation our community finds itself in currently, this has the highest priority for me. I don’t want to sell them, I want us to help solve the overwhelming and heartbreaking housing situation we currently find ourselves facing.

So team (and yep we’re all on the same team, councillors, council, community) let’s get the most important stuff right first. Let’s regain our trust in each other.

Let’s support the most important elements of community wellbeing that will have the biggest benefit to the most of us first. THEN let’s continue to have all of the other things we deserve as a thriving community because we’ve worked together to achieve them.

That’s what I’d like to see and I know it’s possible for us so let’s not settle for anything less.”


Editor’s note – If Cr Cecato wants evidence of CCS supporters behaviour on social media and elsewhere differing from his viewpoint I’m sure it will be very easy to provide.

4 thoughts on “Swan v Cecato – Councillors talk to Moffee about last night’s CCS decision

  1. There was a bit of nastiness that crept into last night’s meeting. Though in small measure, the culprits were Knight, Townley, Adendorff and …Cecato.

    Wonderful in-depth response from Clr Swan. That’s the spirit! Thank you.

    One could never imagine Clr Cecato doing that. Ever. I mentioned before that my view is Steve McGrath doesn’t get the ‘spirit’ of local government (and may be why he was apparently kicked out of Singleton Council: telling councillors to do what he wants wouldn’t go down well in a tiny country town.) This inability to grasp the spirit of local government is nowhere more strongly evident in Clr Cecato’s interview with Moffee, as if everything almost else he says doesn’t show it enough. Clr Adendorff, too, just doesn’t get it. If you compare Clr Swan’s responses it’s about representing people in seeking to clarify matters on the public behalf; Cecato and Adendorff don’t do that – they make the assumption that what they think and feel is what matters, ergo their decision solely arrived at by their internal processes is good for others.

    It’s subtle, but it’s a seismic difference in mentality. This sort of thing, too, breeds a clique, where commonly held internal views if finding similarity, provide strength and support. They’ve definitely retreated into that.

    A troubling development showed itself last night, also. Clr Swan, Clr Arkan and Clr Amos have all shifted in their positions: indicating they’d support the project under certain circumstances. How this came about is a guess. Mine is that there may be a noxious penalty in the confidential attachments relating to the stopping of the contract, given it’s a given. They’d be shy of that. Further, the concern is that these people are being worn down by the continuing obstinacy of the vote results. Clr Rhoades, like an old moustachioed bull in a paddock, is however holding strong against the CCS-idea.

    Motion, recission. Clr Townley is again so enigmatic then so emphatic based on some hidden thought. No light. Seems that if the project is to be paused it’ll have to be on a technical point, by law, even if it’s to jam it in process as it’s defended.

    I hope new candidates take heart, and see how their voice will gain immediate and wide media attention. It’s time these self-identifying would-be powerplayers, with their hearts in the right place but their heads bent hopelessly out of shape then making decisions they’re not equipped to make, got some public heat on them.

  2. I think the dog must have eaten Clr Cecato’s homework. The above from Clr Swan is what I call homework.

  3. It appears the Mayor and Cr Cecato have got together to rehearse their responses to requests for more detailed CCS costings by claiming these have already been discussed ad nauseam with all councillors and such requests are simply a ploy to delay the project. The Mayor also said as much on Friday’s Channel Nine News.

    This response echos previous claims by the Mayor and her cohort that the community was fully informed of the intention to include council administration offices in the CCS during the project’s consultation phase.

    Anyone who has been closely been following progress of the CCS proposal knows this claim too was simply untrue.

  4. Graeme ” Damn Right ” here is the comment I placed the first time I heard the Major sprout that we ratepayers were told that the council administration offices would be included .
    October 28, 2019 at 2:40 pm · Reply
    Back in May this year when like most of us my wife and myself thought that an Entertainment Center Building was to be announced .
    When we were told about the Council Chambers being included and NO Entertainment Center we were “stunned” then to be told that we had been “informed” that would be the case .
    The only reference I could find was on a small paper sheet attached to our rate notice

    Cultural & Civic Space PROJECT UPDATE

    expanded visual art space to contemplate and
    appreciate our creative spirit
    contemporary learning and knowledge hub
    with the latest digital facilities
    more to discover about the heritage of our city
    and our region
    co-located administration centrally combined
    for you convenience
    room to meet gather and share our dynamic
    cultural and civic life

    DID YOU MISS IT as we did , cleverly ” hidden ” co-located administration centrally combined

    SO MUCH FOR BEING INFORMED ” we were Hoodwinked “

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