The Good For Manly four year fight against the Manly Oval car park plan, spearheaded by former Manly Councillor Candy Bingham, has been fully vindicated now that independent assessments into the controversial project have been released - and they are as damning as it gets!
A full copy of the reports by Ernst & Young and Value Networks can be downloaded below. In summary they highlight:
And most importantly ….
“The Manly community, all the non-Liberal Manly councillors, and my community group Good For Manly, have been incredibly worried about this reckless project from the start,” Mrs Bingham said. “Now that we have seen the independent reports, the reality was probably even worse than we thought.”
She said that the project, which was pushed by former Mayor Jean Hay and GM Henry Wong, lacked even the most basic of business principals.
“This was a huge project for Manly - it involved building what would most likely have been a $50M car park in difficult, water logged ground under the sports oval. To finance it we would have had to accept a non-complying commercial and residential development in the heart of Manly village,” Mrs Bingham said.
“Despite all that, the reports found that the council did not even have a business plan; there was no adequate financial risk assessment; the specifications for the oval car park were hopelessly vague and the total cost of building the oval car park was significantly underestimated. And the contract the council eventually signed actually transferred all the car park project risks to the council and its ratepayers."
These failings, along with other serious concerns, were so grave, that both independent reports recommended the project should be terminated, despite Manly Council having already signed contracts with developers just days before its amalgamation.
Mrs Bingham said Council general manager Henry Wong and Mayor Jean Hay, who were the main drivers of the project, had been warned time after time that the plans were flawed.
“We have been asking for a business plan since day one”, Mrs Bingham said
“In the end it got so bad we couldn’t even discuss it in council. I tried to put a motion on the council agenda asking for a business case to be developed and the general manager refused. He didn’t have the right to, but he did it anyway. I then asked Mayor Jean Hay to debate the item as a matter of urgency but she refused too. "
Mrs Bingham said the reports also revealed that although the oval car park had been ‘sold’ as parking for locals and shoppers, the General Manager had told developers to design the car park for commuters.
“That is just appalling,” Mrs Bingham said. “While Henry Wong was promoting the plans by promising they would increase parking spaces in Manly, (which in fact they wouldn't due to the number of parking spaces that were to be removed from the streets), what he was actually doing was removing our locals' car park, and putting up a commuter car park instead.”
“Whistler St car park is used by 425,000 cars each year. If you assume an average spend per car of $20, then pulling the car park down means Manly retailers would lose almost $10 million every year. That would have gutted Manly Village as a retail and commercial precinct.”
Mrs Bingham also pointed to Manly Council’s track record with new infrastructure.
“The car park would have been the same as the swimming pool debacle. The GM said the pool upgrade would cost $15M. It cost $28M plus no allowance had been made for the $900,000 annual additional staff costs. The car park would have been the swimming pool on steroids.”
Mrs Bingham acknowledged the hard work of Good For Manly, community group Save Manly Oval Alliance, the non-Liberal councillors Barbara Aird, Cathy Griffin and Hugh Burns, the North Harbour Precinct and the Manly community in the oval car park battle. And she called for those responsible to be held to account.
“Given the damning nature of these reports, I believe Northern Beaches Council should consider taking action against former GM Henry Wong for misleading the council and entering into contracts that had no hope of being delivered for the approved budget,” Mrs Bingham said.
“The reports are also an indictment on the former Liberal block of five councillors, who were derelict in their duty to the community they were supposed to represent.
“Serious questions still remain about who was to benefit from the two projects - it certainly wasn't the community”
The Northern Beaches Council is left with trying to sort out the mess, including massive claims for compensation from Built/Athas who were awarded the tender for the Whistler Street site.
What do you think should be done about this debacle?
Candy Bingham, Former Councillor Manly Council. Background in marketing, public relations & community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.